A Bronx pastor who is also an NYPD officer has been suspended without pay amid allegations that he raped a 16-year-old teen from his church.
Officer Vladimir Sosa, who is a volunteer pastor at Iglesia Metodista Libre El Remanente in the Tremont section of the Bronx, was arrested early Tuesday in the 43rd Precinct on charges of third-degree rape, criminal sex acts in the third degree, sexual misconduct, child endangerment and sex abuse. He works out of the 46th precinct and has been placed on unpaid leave pending an investigation.
He walked out of court on his own recognizance Tuesday and is scheduled to return on April 17 when he is expected to face a grand jury.
"He abused his two positions of authority, both public and vestal," Bronx Assistant District Attorney Joelle Morabito said.
The rape allegations have shocked congregants at Iglesia Metodista, where the seven-year veteran officer preaches the Gospel to propel believers closer to God. He is also believed to volunteer at other churches.
Sosa, who studied theology at the United Christian College in North Carolina, is accused of allegedly sparking a sexual relationship with a teen he met at his church youth program and engaging in sex acts with her at least three times over the course of one year.
The victim, whose identity is being withheld, reportedly confessed to the relationship when her mother discovered inappropriate text messages from Sosa in her cell phone.
"Every morning he would say, 'God bless your daughters, they're beautiful,' and 'God's going to help you' and things like that," said Maria Torres, Sosa's neighbor. "Everybody who lives on the floor is shocked. No one could understand how it could be this guy."
A family friend of the victim said that while Sosa was once an esteemed pastor, he changed after letting "the devil take control of his life."
"She's doing very bad ... she used to be a top student, a virgin, a girl that was in love with God and this man seduced her," the alleged friend told the New York Post. "She is crying, very depressed. ... I can say that he destroyed her life. This man used to be a good man, but only God knows when he let the devil take control of his life.
Sosa's attorney described the allegations as "false" and the officer is expected to fight the charges.
"There has never been a situation where they have been alone in the same room together," attorney Cary London told the New York Daily News.
Fernando Gonzalez, who helped found the church in 2001, said the rape claims are "not true."
"It's not true. It's being made up," Gonzalez said of the explosive claims. "Vladimir might have been trying to help the female in question with her spiritual life. It might have happened that because of her young age, she confused the situation."
The Christian Post contacted Iglesia Metodista Libre El Remanente and attorney Cary London for comment, but a response was not received by press time.