San Diego "Life Coach" & Pastor Pleads Guilty To Multiple Counts Of Felony Sexual Assault Against His Own Sister

May 16, 2024

A San Diego-based "hypnotherapist, life coach and business strategist" who is married to an adult film actress has pled guilty to multiple felony sex crimes against his sister.

The Ventura County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday that Stephen Dela Cruz has pled guilty to eight felony sexual assault crimes against his own sister. Dela Cruz pled guilty on May 14, 2024, to three counts of PC 261(a)(2) (Forcible Rape), three counts of PC 287(c)(2)(a) (Forcible Oral Copulation), and two counts of PC 289(a)(1) (Sexual Penetration by Foreign Object). During his plea, Dela Cruz also admitted to the allegation that his sister was under the age of 18 at the time of the crimes, according to the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.

"Samantha was incredibly brave, courageous and just never gave up," commented Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, who prosecuted the case. "Despite multiple setbacks and delays, she kept fighting for justice and to have her voice heard in court. Because of her determination to see her brother held accountable for these egregious crimes, the legal process did ultimately work."

Nearly six years apart in age, the District Attorney’s office initially filed charges in juvenile court alleging Dela Cruz was 14 and 15 at the time of the crimes. Then senior prosecutor Erik Nasarenko sought to have the case transferred from juvenile court to adult court, arguing that the crimes involved significant sophistication and planning and were especially violent and severe. Dela Cruz allegedly isolated the victim in their Oxnard house and threatened to kill her if she ever disclosed the crimes, often displaying a knife prior to the sexual assaults, which occurred in 2001 and 2002.

The juvenile court judge agreed with the prosecutor and transferred the case. However, in 2022, the state legislature amended the criteria that California juvenile court judges had to consider when weighing whether to transfer a case to adult court. The new criteria required courts to determine “by clear and convincing evidence that the minor is not amenable to rehabilitation” through the juvenile court. This change in the law entitled the defendant to another transfer hearing, which meant the case had to be returned to juvenile court and Samantha would have to endure the same process yet again. In 2023, a different Ventura County Superior Court judge, applying the new standard, found the defendant fit for transfer to adult court, stating that the "allegations were horrendous."

With the case now set to return to adult court, the defendant exercised his right to appeal the transfer order to the California Court of Appeal, resulting in another delay for Samantha. In November 2023, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the transfer order and returned the case to adult court for jury trial. On Tuesday, May 14, 2024, Dela Cruz pled guilty to three counts of rape, three counts of forcible oral copulation and two counts of digital penetration. He also waived his appellate rights at the time of the plea, meaning he is barred from further appeals in this case.

Delacruz is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27, 2024, at 9:00 a.m. in courtroom 24 of the Ventura County Superior Court. All the charges are considered violent felonies under California law, and the District Attorney intends to ask the judge for a 30-year state prison commitment.
According to Dela Cruz's website, he is an international board certified clinical hypnotherapist, a business and life coach, an expert in various media platforms, and a published author. He moved to San Diego from the Bay Area in 2011 and has lived in downtown San Diego  since 2014 with his wife Angela, who is an adult film actress that goes by the stage name Christy Love. Steven and Angela are also pastors at Living Faith Church, a Christian-based faith "for sinners by sinners", which is located in San Diego's Little Italy. 

"I own," explained De La Cruz in an interview with The San Diego Sun. "I’m a hypnotherapist, life coach and business strategist. Working from home, I create content for social media and make new online courses for people to learn how to use hypnosis to improve their lives and businesses." 

Despite his recent conviction, Dela Cruz continues to make frequent vlog posts on his YouTube Channel and social media updates on Instagram.