Stephen Howard, 54, is accused of sexually abusing children he met in his own church, Muscoy United Methodist Church. The abuse allegedly lasted for more than a decade. He allegedly paid his victims for sex.
Monday, Howard faced a judge in a San Bernardino County courtroom just a few miles from the Muscoy church where's he's served as head pastor for 13 years.
According to sheriff's detectives, Howard sexually abused at least two victims, a 14-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man, both of whom Howard apparently met while at church.
"The 23-year-old victim stated that the sexual abuse by the suspect had been occurring since he was 9 years old, and that the victims stated to investigators that the suspect had been sexually abusing them for money," said Jodi Miller, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.
Howard is charged with lewd acts on a child under 14, oral copulation with a child and sodomy with a child.
The sheriff's department says the crimes happened in San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana.
"The suspect has worked in a setting where they believe there could be additional victims," said Miller.
A judge entered a not-guilty plea for Howard and refused to lower his bail, set at $250,000.
Howard's sister and his attorney were both in court Monday afternoon for his arraignment. Both of them declined to comment.
Detectives believe there may be more victims. Anyone with information regarding the crime was urged to contact Detective Jennifer Wood from the Crimes Against Children Detail at (800) 78-CRIME.