Two lawsuits were filed Monday on behalf of two girls who were allegedly molested at a Salvation Army Sunday school in Charleston.
Parents of the girls, who were allegedly abused over the course of five years by Armando Gonzalez, filed the suits a little more than a year after the 65-year-old was charged with repeatedly molesting a girl in his care at the Sunday school at 2135 Ashley River Road.
Each of the lawsuits allege Gonzalez was a known sexual predator at the time and that publicly available information could have shown as much. The suits, filed by the McLeod Law Group in the 9th Circuit, also accuses Salvation Army managers of doing nothing to prevent Gonzalez from sexually abusing the young girls. The law group is demanding a jury trial against all defendants, which include the Salvation Army, three of its majors and another employee.
A statement from the Salvation Army of North and South Carolina rebuts the claims. Law enforcement was immediately contacted when abuse of one of the girls came to light, according to the statement, and Gonzalez was banned.
"Our first priority has been the care and well-being of those affected and their families," the statement reads. "We are committed to the safety of those we serve and will continue to refine our practices to ensure the safety of all who come through our doors."
Gonzalez admitted to the abuse of one of the girls in December 2015, telling police he thought she liked it and did not stop because she "never said no," according to a police affidavit included in the lawsuit filings. He is being held in the Charleston County Detention Center.
Gonzalez had previously been charged in North Charleston with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2003. Gonzalez was accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl, according to an incident report.
In the 2015 cases, he has been charged with third-degree criminal sexual misconduct.
The Salvation Army has not yet responded to request for comment regarding whether leadership knew about the 2003 incident.
According to a statement from lead attorney Mullins McLeod Jr., the firm spent more than a year preparing the lawsuit. Charleston attorney Mark Peper also is helping pursue the legal action.
"The innocent victims we represent will shine a light on what the family can only describe as The Salvation Army's long, checkered past of sexual abuse within its ranks," McLeod said in a news release.