QUEENS — A 69-year-old music director for a Jamaica church was arrested for sexually abusing a girl during private lessons in her home when she was 11 and 12 years old, officials said.
Rafael Diaz was arrested at his home on 89th Avenue in Jamaica on Saturday and charged with sexual conduct against a child, authorities said.
Diaz met the victim at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Jamaica, where he worked as the choir director and the victim was a student, the criminal complaint said.
The victims’s family later arranged for her to receive private piano and singing lessons at her home in 2013 and 2014.
Last Thursday, the now-15-year-old victim told her father that Diaz molested her during those lessons, according to court documents and information provided by the Diocese of Brooklyn. The father then came to the parish and reported it.
The diocese said in a statement that “the church was not aware that Diaz … was hired by the alleged victim’s parents to give their child private music lessons at their home.”
“Diocesan officials immediately contacted the NYPD and are cooperating with authorities during the investigation,” the diocese said, adding that Diaz’s employment was immediately terminated following his arrest.
The victim told investigators that Diaz touched her breasts on several occasions "while speaking to her about her singing," the criminal complaint said. He also once asked her if she had started her menstrual cycle and then put his hand on her private parts over her shorts.
When confronted by the victim's father in a “controlled telephone conversation,” Diaz admitted that he touched the victim several times in 2013 but that it ended when the lessons stopped, authorities said. He also said that he picked the victim “because she had short shorts on and he was looking at her legs,” the complaint said.
Diaz was fired from his job, according to the diocese, which also said in a statement that it "takes the protection of children very seriously... It performs criminal background checks on every employee and volunteer. It also requires them, as well as minors, to complete ongoing training for the prevention of sexual abuse.”
Information about Diaz's lawyer was not immediately available.
“Instead of being a role model to all of his students, the defendant is accused of taking advantage of his position as a church choir director to gain access to a young child for his own sexual gratification," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. "These are deeply disturbing allegations that, if proven true, are deserving of severe punishment.”
Brown also asked other potential victims to call his Special Victims Bureau at 718-286-6505.
Diaz, who court records show was released on Monday after paying his $35,000 bail, is due back in court on Jan. 20.
If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison, according to the Queens DA's office.