A Bradenton man who used the Santeria religion to coerce a teenage girl into having sex with him is now facing prison time.
Sergio Carmona-Martinez, 56, was found guilty by a jury Friday afternoon of five counts of sexual battery on a victim between the ages of 12 and 18. He now faces up to 30 years in prison for each of his five convictions.
He is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 3.
Carmona-Martinez is still facing five additional and identical charges alleging he did the same to another teenage girl. He is set to stand trial for those charges beginning Nov. 13.
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Both girls, however, testified during last week’s trial.
“I want to thank the victim for her bravery and courage in coming forward and reporting her abuse. The victim’s bravery should encourage anyone who may be suffering in silence,” Assistant State Attorney Brian Chambers told the Bradenton Herald afterward.
The victim was between the ages of 14 and 15 years old when Carmona-Martinez sexually battered her.
“By coming forward, the victim made it possible for sheriff’s investigators to uncover and put a stop to the defendant’s manipulation and grooming behaviors. The jury’s verdict today will ensure that Carmona-Martinez will no longer be a threat to our community,” Chambers said.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into Carmona-Martinez began in March 2016 after authorities received information that he was using Santeria to coerce teenage girls into having sex with him — claiming they needed to do whatever the spirit he channeled said. Santeria is an Afro-Cuban religion that includes the worship of Roman Catholic saints, offerings to the spirits and rituals that sometimes include animal sacrifices.
The victim in this week’s case testified about the first time she had sex with Carmona-Martinez when she was 14 in the fall of 2013. The girl knew Carmona-Martinez and his family, and he had told her that she was surrounded by a bad spirit but that he could help her get rid of it.
Her boyfriend waited outside while when she went into the mobile home in the Christian Retreat Mobile Home Park where Carmona-Martinez used to live. He had warned her that he when he channeled the bad spirit, she would have to do what the spirit said.
The victim was blindfolded as Carmona-Martinez had sex with her and then afterward told her she had to have sex with her boyfriend to show the spirit she was still with him. She later had sex with him three more times at a storage unit at the Simply Self Storage.