Fremont priest pleads no contest to lewd acts upon a child

The Rev. Hector David Mendoza-Vela, 42, also known as Hector David Vela, of Fremont. Photo: Alameda County DA

A Catholic priest at a Fremont church has pleaded no contest to five felony counts of lewd acts upon a child for molesting a boy over an 18-month period in 2016 and 2017, according to court records.

The Rev. Hector David Vela, 42, also known as Hector David Mendoza-Vela, entered his plea in the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Stevens in Dublin on Aug. 16.

In return for his plea, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss 25 additional counts of lewd acts upon a child for inappropriately touching the boy in his genital area between June 2016 and December 2017, when the boy was 14 and 15 years old.

The plea agreement calls for Vela to get a term of four years and eight months in state prison when he's sentenced on Sept. 27.

It also calls for Vela to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and to stay away from the victim for 10 years.

Vela was arrested on March 28, after Alameda County sheriff's investigators learned of the allegations against him and contacted the victim.

Vela had served as a priest in Alameda County since 2013, first at St. John's Catholic Church in San Lorenzo and most recently at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Fremont.

The abuse occurred at the boy's home in unincorporated Hayward, according to an Alameda County sheriff's spokesman.

During a pretext phone call to Vela by the boy that investigators were monitoring, he allegedly admitted to touching the boy inappropriately, investigators said.

Detectives later went to the church in Fremont and arrested the priest, who confessed in an interview to touching the boy inappropriately. 

Vela also wrote the victim's family an apology letter, according to court documents.

Vela was parochial administrator at the church in Fremont until he was arrested.

Vela was born in El Salvador before coming to the United States, where he is a legal resident, according to the Diocese of Oakland, which oversees the churches where the priest served.