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Black Collar Crime: Lutheran Pastor William Helker Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Distribution Charges

william helker

In October 2016, William Helker,(youth) pastor of All Saint Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography, At the time, KSTP Channel 5 reported:

Authorities have arrested a 47-year-old pastor after searching his Pine City home and a Cottage Grove church during a child pornography investigation.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says William Leonard Helker was arrested Wednesday at his home on the 15000 block of Copper Canyon Road in Pine City.

The arrest came after BCA agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed search warrants on October 26, at Helker’s home and All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, where Helker is a pastor.

Helker was arrested without incident and was booked into the Pine County Jail on suspicion of possessing pornography involving minors, the BCA said.

Members of the church say they found out about the arrest via email Wednesday night.

They say Helker worked with kids conducting first communion and confirmation classes, but worked with adults as well.

“Is this pretty startling to hear this? Oh yes, oh yes. I’m really shocked, really shocked. He’s an up front guy, has always been since he started preaching there, and I really liked him, really like him. I see him at social events too, he comes to social events we have through the church,” says church member James Corbin.

All Saints Lutheran Church released a statement saying, “We are aware of the arrest of William Helker and he was placed on administrative leave yesterday. We are concerned and ask prayers for all affected and will cooperate fully with law enforcement. We are committed to providing safe spaces for all children and youth at All Saints and in the community.”

Today, Helker pleaded guilty to the distribution of child pornography, including photographs of church children. KSTP Channel 5 reports:

A former Cottage Grove pastor pleaded guilty in federal court to distribution of child pornography Thursday.

Forty-seven-year-old William Leonard Helker of Pine City was arrested in October at his home. The arrest came after Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a search warrant at his home and All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove.

The agency was tipped off by Facebook and Instagram that a user was suspected of possessing child porn.

Investigators said they found Helker communicated with a man in Finland, planning to trade images of preteen and teenage girls, according to the criminal complaint.

The photo involved two pre-pubescent girls as young as 5 and a pubescent man engaging in sexual acts.

According to court documents, Helker admitted in his plea he had conversations about his sexual interest in children, had more than 900 child porn images and 300 child porn videos in his possession, “including images of prepubescent minors under the age of 12 and depictions of sadistic and masochistic abuse.”

Helker admitted to investigators he took the photos of four minors who attended church events and edited their photos on to adult porn images. He said the photos he created were “in the hundreds.”

Update

CBS-4 reports:

A former youth pastor from Cottage Grove is sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for distribution of child pornography.

William Helker, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography in March. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Helker to 150 months in prison last week, along with 15 years of supervised release.

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Stillwater Patch reports:

A youth pastor out of Cottage Grove will serve a federal prison sentence after distributing child pornography. William Leonard Helker, 47, pleaded guilty on March 3, to one count of distribution of child pornography. On July 27, United States District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz sentenced Helker to 150 months in federal prison and 15 years of supervised release.

“Helker is a dangerous child predator who disguised himself as a youth pastor. Instead of providing guidance to young people, he used his position as a trusted leader to prey upon them,” said Assistant United States Attorney Katharine Buzicky in a statement.

“This child sexual exploitation case originated in Finland with the arrest there of another child predator,” said J. Alex Khu, special agent in charge of HSI Saint Paul.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, on October 22, 2016, Homeland Security Investigations and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension received a cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that a Minnesota man exchanged child pornography with and individual in Finland.

The cybertip was listed as “Priority 1” because NCMEC assessed that children were currently in danger. Through a joint investigation, BCA and HSI agents were able to identify the Minnesota man as William Helker, a youth pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove.

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