A Catholic priest from Holy Cross parish in Mesa was one of five men arrested on the charge of child prostitution, Mesa police said.
Mesa Police Department conducted operation “Buyer Beware” on Thursday, Dec. 11, with undercover detectives posing as underage females. During the operation, five suspects responded to the designated location to pay for sex with who they believed was a 16-year-old female, according to a press release from Detective Steve Berry, MPD public information officer.
Suspects transported and booked on the charge of child prostitution. 13-3212.B.2, a class 2 felony, were: Eric Mohren, 34; Christopher Sherman, 48; Solomon Bandiho, 49; Jose Flores-Nunez, 31; and Santiago Robles, 26.
“The suspects arrested ranged in age from 26 to 49 years old. Subsequent to the arrest, all of the suspects admitted that they knew they were coming to the location to have sex with a 16-year-old female. Through the investigation, it was also learned that Solomon Bandiho is a Catholic priest at a local parish in Mesa,” Detective Berry said in the release. “Crimes involving children are of the highest priority for the Mesa Police Department. Operations of this type have shown time and again to be successful and remove dangerous child predators from our community,” he said in the release.
Suspect Bandiho was appointed parochial administrator of Holy Cross Parish in Mesa effective July 31, according to The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix website. The church is at 1244 S. Power Road, according to the church’s website.
The following statement was posted at the Diocese of Phoenix website at http://www.diocesephoenix.org: “We learned this afternoon that Mesa Police arrested Fr. Solomon Bandiho on suspicion of child prostitution. His priestly faculties have been removed and he is prohibited from public ministry. We are not aware of any additional claims of sexual misconduct involving Fr. Bandiho. Fr. Bandiho is a doctoral student from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley. He was on a work-study program as part of his studies and assigned to Holy Cross Parish in Mesa, where he has served as administrator of the parish since July 2014. He has also assisted at St. Helen Parish in Glendale. He is a priest of the Diocese of Bukoba in Tanzania. The Diocese of Phoenix performs background checks, including fingerprinting on all priests who are given assignments in its parishes and institutions. No previous allegations or criminal activity were indicated in a background check. He comes with the recommendation and letter of good standing from his own bishop as well. We are cooperating with the law enforcement investigation. If you have any information regarding this matter, please contact the Mesa Police Department at 480-644-3147. It is important to remember that this is an ongoing police matter. Therefore, we cannot comment on the details of the criminal case so as to avoid interfering with any police investigations. The Diocese of Phoenix is committed to providing a safe environment where it values and honors every individual as created in the image and likeness of God. Great efforts have been made to put systems into place to keep our young people safe. Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or who may have information concerning these crimes is encouraged to call a local law enforcement agency. Additionally, the Diocese of Phoenix provides support services through its Office of Child and Youth Protection at 602-354-2396 or at diocesephoenix.org (click on “Youth Protection”),” according to the statement.
The Mesa Independent is available in Mesa and Maricopa County