Mesa priest arrested in child prostitution sting

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Solomon Bandiho, 49 By Mike Gertzman Solomon Bandiho, 49 By Mike Gertzman
Solomon Bandiho By Mike Gertzman Solomon Bandiho By Mike Gertzman
Santiago Robles, 26 By Mike Gertzman Santiago Robles, 26 By Mike Gertzman
Jose Flores-Nunez, 31 By Mike Gertzman Jose Flores-Nunez, 31 By Mike Gertzman
Eric Mohren, 34 By Mike Gertzman Eric Mohren, 34 By Mike Gertzman

MESA, Ariz. -- Mesa police officers arrested five men, including a Catholic priest, in a child prostitution sting.

Officers conducted operation "Buyer Beware" on Dec. 11.

Undercover detectives posed as underage females.

During the sting, five suspects responded to a Mesa motel to pay for sex with a person they believed was a 16-year-old female.

The suspects arrested ranged in age from 26 to 49 years old.

Subsequent to the arrest, all of the suspects admitted that they knew they were coming to the location to have sex with a 16-year-old female.

Through the investigation, it was also learned that Solomon Bandiho, 49, is a Catholic priest at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mesa. Police said he offered the female $60 for sex.

"We're very equal opportunity players," said Mesa Police Det. Steve Berry. "We don't care what walk of life you're from. If you commit this type of crime, we're going to arrest you."

Berry said officers had to deploy a Taser when taking Bandiho into custody.

"He certainly took a stance that he could get aggressive with the officers, but fortunately we do have the proper personnel in place and the techniques available to stop that before anyone gets hurt," Berry said.

3TV's Mike Watkiss visited the Holy Cross Catholic Church on Friday but was told to leave the property. A sign on the door said a mass scheduled for Friday night had been canceled.

The Catholic Diocese said in a statement that Bandiho has been relieved of his duties.

"When you have someone who is knowingly engaging in this type of activity, even when they're told multiple times, 'I'm underage. I'm 16. Are you OK with that? Are you cool with that?' and they continue to say yes and then they show up to consummate that act, those are folks that we need to get off the streets," Berry said.

The other suspects are Eric Mohren, 34; Christopher Sherman, 48; Jose Flores-Nunez, 31 and Santiago Robles, 26.