- Jan 13, 2010
Father Solomon Bandiho is a priest of the Diocese of Bukoba
A Tanzanian Catholic priest assigned to an east Mesa church was among five suspects arrested by Mesa police in a sting operation that targeted prostitution involving under-aged girls. Mesa police detectives posed as 16-year-old girls and advertised their services on a website known for trading in prostitution. Johns were to come to a Mesa motel at a predetermined time to rendezvous with the prostitutes for sex, according to a police statement released Friday.
When the men agreed to have sex with the supposed prostitutes, even after being told they were 16, police arrested them on suspicion of child prostitution, said Detective Steve Berry, a Mesa police spokesman. The suspects include Father Solomon Bandiho, 49, who is listed on Holy Cross Catholic Church's website as the east Mesa church's parochial administrator. The other four suspects were identified by police as Eric Mohren, 34; Christopher Sherman, 48;Jose Flores Nunez, 31; and Santiago Robles, 26.
The sting concept used in operation "Buyer Beware" is not new. Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix police have conducted such stings in the past. A Phoenix police lieutenant was arrested as part of a June sting by the Glendale police and quickly submitted his retirement. "When you have people who are willing to prey upon our juveniles, those are some of the worse people in our society," Berry said.
Berry said the suspects were willing to lay down their money for sex acts even after they were told that the supposed prostitutes were 16 years old. He said someone who is willing to have sex with a 16-year-old might be willing to victimize even younger children.
Rob De Francesco, a spokesman for the diocese, said the diocese learned about Bandiho's arrest on Friday afternoon. Bandiho's faculties as a priest have been removed, meaning that he is barred from public ministry, he said. Other priests will be available at Holy Cross to say Mass and perform other ministerial duties.
Various Catholic-related websites said Bandiho was ordained as a priest on June 19, 1994, in the Diocese of Bukoba, Tanzania. He was appointed as parochial administrator at Holy Cross on July 31. In a statement released Friday, the diocese said Bandiho is a doctoral student from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA. He was on a work-study program as part of his studies, and although assigned to Holy Cross, and he has also assisted at St. Helen Parish in Glendale. He remains a priest of the Diocese of Bukoba.
"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," the diocese statement said. The diocese also said it is "not aware of any additional claims of sexual misconduct involving Father Bandiho."
Source: Mesa priest among 5 arrested in underage prostitution sting