A local priest is under investigation after being accused of child molestation.

A letter was read to parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church during mass Sunday on behalf of Bishop Armando Ochoa stating that Father Miguel Flores is on leave while the Diocese of Fresno investigates allegation of sex abuse of a minor.

Parishioners gasped audibly when it was announced at masses that their priest has been suspended from pastoral duties because of allegations of child molestation.  

Flores was placed on paid leave Feb. 28.

17 News found no record of criminal charges against Flores, but this is not the first time he has been accused of sexual abuse.

Flores has been the pastor at the church on Baker Street for several years.

“I love Padre Miguel,” said long-time parishioner Sylvia Vargas. “He has been like a brother for me and for my children and I feel like someone in my family has been taken from me.”

In 2002 Flores was accused of raping and threatening a 16-year-old San Joaquin girl who worked as his office assistant at churches in Tranquillity and Hanford, according to The Fresno Bee. 

He was acquitted on three counts of forcible rape, three counts of statutory rape, dissuading a witness and criminal threat charges.

17 News reached out to Bakersfield Police Department to see if they are investigating Flores, but have not heard back. 

17 News searched the Kern County Court website and could not find any cases against Flores.