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Category: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Robert Gilmore, Sr. Accused of Sexual Abuse

arrested

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Robert Gilmore, Sr., pastor of an unnamed Evangelical church in Casper, Wyoming, stands accused of repeatedly sexually abusing church girls . While the news story does not name the church Gilmore, Sr. pastors, a LinkedIn page for Robert Gilmore, Sr. says he is the bishop of New Life Tabernacle (no web presence) in Casper.

K2 Radio reports:

[Pastor] Robert Lee Gilmore Sr. often took on a father figure role for the girls — whose dads were in prison or absent for other reasons — before sexually abusing them, court documents state.

In one case, a victim took her own life after turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the abuse in her adult life, court documents state.

Gilmore Sr. is charged with six counts of second-degree sexual assault and seven counts of indecent liberties with a minor. If convicted of all charges, he could be sentenced up to 190 years behind bars.

He has not entered a plea to the charges.

According to a heavily redacted affidavit of probable cause, a man contacted Casper police in March involving Gilmore Sr. The man told police that Gilmore Sr. spoke at a funeral for a family member. As Gilmore Sr. spoke, a woman got up and left the chapel.

The woman told the man Gilmore Sr. sexually assaulted her when she was a child and Gilmore Sr. was the pastor, court documents state.

Court documents do not specify at which church Gilmore Sr. was a pastor.

A Casper police detective contacted the girl and described an incident in 2003. She told the detective that she was in Gilmore Sr.’s office preparing for her baptism into the church when Gilmore Sr. sexually assaulted her, court documents state.

Gilmore Sr. allegedly told the girl, who was 5-years-old at the time, that God had chosen her to perform those sex acts with him and that they were necessary to prepare her to be baptized and given “the holy ghost.”

According to the affidavit, a woman came forward and told investigators that she witnessed Gilmore Sr. sexually assault a friend of hers when he was in his 20s and the girl was 11.

As the girl in that instance grew older, the sexual relationship between her and Gilmore Sr. continued, court documents state.

“(Gilmore Sr.) would provide (the alleged victim) with methamphetamine and money as a way to keep her from disclosing the sexual abuse that (Gilmore Sr.) inflicted on her as a child,” the affidavit states. That alleged victim, as an adult, took her own life in 2009.

The affidavit goes on to describe an additional victim who disclosed to a friend that Gilmore Sr. sexually abused her as a child.

Charging documents detail an incident in 2018 when a woman was taking care of her parents who lived in an apartment. An alleged victim of Gilmore Sr.’s was also at the apartment helping out when Gilmore Sr. called and said he would stop by. The alleged victim panicked to the point that she jumped out a window and started running away.

According to the affidavit, yet another alleged victim came forward and described an incident that happened in the spring of 2004 or 2005. In that case, the alleged victim described being taken into the church basement after Sunday school to change into a baptismal gown. Gilmore Sr. allegedly accompanied the girl into a closet to change her clothing. He reportedly took the girl’s clothing off, including her undergarments, and molested her.

In that instance, Gilmore Sr. told the girl that the assault was God’s will and that God would be angry at her if she did not relent.

According to court documents, police spoke with a victim from 1998 who described preparing to be baptized when Gilmore Sr. brought her to his office and said it would “hurt” God if she didn’t let him sexually abuse her.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: United Methodist Pastor John Hackmann Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography

pastor john hackmann

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

John Hackmann, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Marion, Illinois stands accused of soliciting child pornography.

KFVS-12 reports:

Reverend John S. Hackmann, Jr., 45, was charged with child pornography and intimidation.

The Williamson County sheriff said on Monday he had bonded out of the Williamson County Jail.

According to the State’s Attorney’s Office, Hackmann’s preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 19.

Court documents state Hackmann solicited a teen to get lewd photos of female friends that are her age. He’s accused of threatening to show the teen’s mother a private video of her and boyfriend.

Frank J. Beard, Bishop of the Illinois Area, The United Methodist Church, released the following statement:

Conference leadership has been notified of the arrest Thursday by Williamson County authorities of the Rev. John S. Hackmann II, 45, pastor of Marion First UMC.

In the best interest of all concerned, Rev. Hackmann has been temporarily relieved of his pastoral duties while an inquiry is made into the circumstances which led to the arrest.

An interim pastor will be assigned to serve Marion First during this time. It is our intention to cooperate with the criminal investigation as it unfolds.

The judgment of guilt or innocence regarding the criminal charges will come through that process. Our responsibility is to care for the welfare of the people involved and of the Church.

Please join us in prayer for Rev. Hackmann, his family, all parties involved and this congregation as we move forward guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Abner Anibal Rolon Accused of Fraud

abner anibal rolon

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Abner Anibal Rolon, pastor of Calvary First Assembly in Haines City, Florida, stands accused of attempting to “bilk an 85-year-old woman with visual, hearing and mobility impairments for more than $35,000.”

News Chief reports:

Abner Anibal Rolon, 46, a Davenport resident and senior pastor at Calvary First Assembly in unincorporated Haines City, allegedly attempted to bilk an 85-year-old woman with visual, hearing and mobility impairments for more than $35,000, according to a Haines City Police Department press release.

He also was charged by HCPD with scheming to defraud in the amount of more than $20,000 and presenting himself as a contractor without a license. Rolon turned himself in on Friday. He was subsequently released on $10,500 bond, according to Polk County Jail records.

According to HCPD, the victim, who resides with a caretaker, was seeking flooring and roofing repairs in preparation to sell her home. Rolon allegedly handed the woman “A Servant’s Hand” business card in June in which he presented himself as a licensed contractor capable of multiple services.

HCPD stated while the caretaker was away, Rolon insisted more services were necessary. He eventually billed the woman six times between July and September for work totaling $36,440.

According to police, the Haines City Building Division and Code Compliance unit discovered a water heater, ceiling fans, windows, electrical work and light fixtures were incorrectly installed and must be reworked. Rolon allegedly also billed the woman for roof and porch repairs that were not done.

HCPD stated Rolon was not licensed for electrical and contracting work and failed to procure permits for the work.

“To take advantage of an elderly woman trying to sell her home and to this extent, is simply unconscionable,” HCPD Chief Jim Elensky said. “We should be able to rely on our local pastors to serve as community leaders — not lying, stealing and taking advantage of people.”

Rolon and his wife, also a church pastor, have already been scrubbed from the Calvary First Assembly website. Their Facebook page is currently unavailable.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland Rejects Plea on Sex Crime Charges

Pastor Stricjavvar Strick Strickland

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, pastor of Second Baptist Church (website not active) in Kalamazoo, Michigan stands accused of sexually assaulting four teen boys, paying them to have sex with his wife while he watched.

Strickland faces two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct on a student, another on a person age 13-15 and another by force or coercion. The good pastor also faces four counts of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity and three counts of child sexually abusive activity.

MLive reports:

A Kalamazoo pastor accused of sexually assaulting four male victims between the ages of 15 and 17 is said to have paid the children to have sex with his wife while he watched.

The Rev. Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, of Kalamazoo’s Second Baptist Church, has been charged with 11 felonies connected to alleged incidents spanning from Aug. 1, 2015- Aug. 31, 2018, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week in Kalamazoo County District Court.

….

A warrant for Strickland’s arrest was issued Aug. 21. As of Tuesday, Aug. 25, the pastor was yet to turn himself in. His attorney, Michael Hills, told MLive early Tuesday, that the two were making arrangements for the pastor to turn himself in.

….

“It has been two years since these allegations first came forward and Pastor Strickland has remained in contact and available. He is not running from this,” Hills said. “Pastor Strickland remains ready to turn himself in and deal with these charges accordingly.”

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If convicted, the pastor faces a potential penalty of 15 years in prison on each of the first four charges, and 20 years on each of the other seven charges, according to his warrant.

….

In a bond recommendation, filed with the court along with the arrest affidavit, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Christin J. Mehrtens-Carlin recommends the court not allow the pastor to have any contact with the four alleged victims, his wife Jazmonique Strickland, or anyone under the age of 18.

“Per the reports, the defendant and his wife would use their employment at Phoenix High School (in Kalamazoo) and to some extent, the defendant would use his work as a pastor, to find male teens to engage in sexual activity with the wife, while the defendant watched and masturbated,” Mehrtens-Carlin writes in her bond recommendation.

Pastor Strickland calls the charges against him “absolutely preposterous.” Strickland added, “All I can say for now is that we are prepared for this fight. God will prevail.”

It is doubtful that God will show up on the scene to deliver Pastor Strickland from his predicament. Hopefully, justice will prevail. Kudos to Michigan state police and prosecutors for not letting Strickland’s notoriety stand in the way of seeking criminal charges against him.

According to an archived bio page for Strickland:

Pastor Strick Strickland succeeds Rev. Matthew W. Wright as pastor of Second Baptist Church and was elected January 22, 2012. Strickland has been preaching since age 19, a year after he got saved. He says that although he grew up in the church in Warren Hill, Mississippi, he didn’t really accept Christ until age 18. Apart of what helped him make his decision in the end was seeing his peers struggle on the streets where he grew up. In fact, he mentions that he had strayed away from church for a while. He got into trouble and landed in an alternative school. However, even there he excelled academically and tested in the top 5 percentile of students across the nation. He was in a gang and was labeled “Expected to fail”. Thus, Pastor Strickland’s story is one of how God is still a God of miracles, even today.

When asked how he knew he was called to preach, he replied, “Because it was the last thing I wanted to do”. He says that it was not only that he didn’t want to preach, but it was also that he didn’t relish the lifestyle of a preacher.

Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist. Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist.

Pastor Strickland is also a national recording artist and the lead singer for a group called the True Believers. We hope that through his preaching and singing many souls will be won for the Kingdom of God. Since his election at Second Baptist Church, he has been involved in the Spiritual Awakening Services at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Jump Start Revival at his church, and spoke on 95.5 FM radio. As a young pastor, this is an example other young people that want to become pastors, ministers, singers or entrepreneurs can learn from.

Pastor Strickland relocated to Michigan, while most of his family lives in Mississippi where he was raised by his grandmother as an only child. His grandmother was a spiritually-oriented woman who helped him with his homework every night. He was in junior high school when he found out that his grandmother could not read or write. The way Strickland learned, however was heeding her advice to “sound out the words”. His mother Ida M. Turner resides in Joliet, Illinois along with his uncle, aunt, and a host of other relatives. Strickland says he is excited to be closer to his mother as he is her only child and she is his biggest fan.

An August 2018 WWMT-3 news report alleged that Strickland had a sexual relationship Aniya Mack. Mack was later murdered by her boyfriend, Donnovan Lewis. Strickland released the following statement, denying the allegations against him:

All of the things that I am being Accused of are ministry related!

1. Second Baptist under my leadership has helped more than 30 families with transportation barriers Aniya’s situation was no different.

2. We have shared thousands of dollars of resources to help members with rent, utilities, food…

3. The All Expenses Paid trip was a choir trip with 50 other people. This trip was also all expenses paid for all College Students of which there was 6-8 more! Who all shared rooms together. My family wife and kids where with us…

lastly, this is an attempt to discredit the church, the NAACP, and the black leader. However, I’m not running from this story. I am rather trying to be sensitive to the source of your information (A young man I don’t know at all. Who has killed his ex-girlfriend and is declaring himself insane!) his family deserves peace and my response to the propaganda will only disrupt their peace!

Ultimately and finally, I have no control over people’s dreams and feel that it is extremely unfair that I be held accountable for was a person thinks or imagines is happening!

In this particular case we have a young man who has confessed to murder and I’m sure that had I been a white leader here in Kalamazoo that would be no story especially based solely upon the word of a confessed killer and self-proclaimed insane suspect.

Aniya Mack’s memory deserves to be left in tack! Here is a young lady that has already lost her life and future and now she is being denigrated to nothing more than her pastor’s mistress! That’s the biggest injustice of all!

On October 23, 2020, Strickland rejected a plea deal offered to him by the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor. A scheduled probable conference was waived and pushed until early December.

CW7 reports:

A former Kalamazoo pastor charged with sexually assaulting four teenage boys, Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, denied a plea deal Thursday, his attorney told News Channel 3.

Attorney Mike Hills declined to provide details about the offer he said the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office proposed.

A probable cause conference in the sex crimes case against Strickland that was scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, was waived and pushed until early December, Hills said.

….

Investigators claim that Strickland, a former pastor at Second Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, and his wife, Jazmonique Strickland, paid teens for sex. Strickland has denied the allegations.

Authorities said Strickland and his wife used their positions within the church and the Kalamazoo Public Schools to coerce four teen boys into having sex.

Strickland turned himself in at the Kalamazoo County Jail on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, the day after Michigan State Police declared him a fugitive. He was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond, which means the judge allowed Strickland to be released without any deposit or collateral.

The conditions of his bond also allowed Strickland to return to his home state of Mississippi, court records show.

Hills said Strickland, a father of eight children, had been working at a horse farm in Mississippi to support his wife, Jazmonique, 28, who is pregnant with the couple’s sixth child together.

No charges have been filed against Jazmonique Strickland.

Michigan State Police said its investigation into the Strickland couple is still ongoing.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Raymond Vliet Pleads No Contest to Attempted Embezzlement

pastor raymond vliet

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In July 2019, Raymond Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el General Baptist Church in Flushing, Michigan, (no web presence) was accused of bilking an elderly parishioner out of tens of thousands of dollars. Authorities believed there could be more victims.  WNEM-5 reported at the time:

Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el general Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township, faces charges of embezzling $20,000 to $50,000 from a vulnerable adult and committing a financial transaction without consent.

Sheriff Robert Pickell said the investigation started after a loan officer noticed something suspicious. Pickell said that happened when Vliet, who had power of attorney for a 91-year-old parishioner and his wife, went to a credit union to get a loan for a pontoon.

“The pastor convinced the victim’s wife before she died to sign over the modular home in the name of the church and it’s Beth-el general Baptist Church. And she did that because she was so taken in by the pastor. He was doing God’s work,” Pickell said.

The loan officer denied the loan request, and while researching, found Vliet also had power of attorney for other members of the church, Pickell said. That’s when she called the Elder Abuse Task Force.

Pickell said when the credit union turned down the loan, the pastor went to another place and did secure a loan. He also got a loan for another vehicle when he learned the 91-year-old man’s vehicle couldn’t pull the pontoon.

When a welfare check was done at the victim’s house, Pickell said officials noticed some things that just weren’t right.

In September 2019, Vliet agreed to “plead no contest to attempted embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000.”

In November 2019, Vliet attempted to withdraw his no contest plea, alleging that the prosecutor had “pressured” and “strong-armed” him into making the plea.

MLive reported at the time:

A Flint-area pastor is alleging he was coerced into accepting a plea deal in connection with an embezzlement case.

The allegations came about during a Monday, Nov. 25 hearing in Genesee Circuit Judge David J. Newblatt’s courtroom for Raymond M. Vliet Jr., 55, who is accused of embezzling money from a 91-year-old man to purchase several items and trips.

Monday’s scheduled hearing for Vliet included a motion to withdraw a plea deal and potential sentencing

….

Vliet agreed Sept. 20 in Genesee District Court to plead no contest to attempted embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000.

K.C. Baran, Vliet’s attorney, however, told the court Monday that his client said the plea deal was not voluntary as he felt “pressured” and “strong-armed” after being asked by Newblatt what the claims were that may be made at a future hearing.

“This is just how he feels and how he felt at the time he entered the plea,” said Baran.

Vliet claims he was told he’d face additional charges, increased bond and could remain in jail for up to two years awaiting trial.

Assistant Prosecutor Rebecca Jurva-Brinn argued there was “absolutely nothing” to Vliet’s claims he didn’t understand the plea deal.

….

Vliet would have to pay restitution to two victims as determined by the probation department as part of the previously negotiated deal which has yet to be approved by the court.

The judge ultimately called for a Dec. 11 [2019] evidentiary hearing to hear the claims by Vliet, along with any other witnesses.

In attempting to track down which church, if any, Vliet is pastoring, I came across conflicting reports.

The Daily Gazette reports:

Defense attorney Fred Meiers said he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to review all the evidence against Pastor Vliet and didn’t want to make any comments.

Meiers told The Morning Gazette Radio Show last week that it was unclear from the police report what church his client is affiliated with after being told a Linked In page by Pastor Vliet says he currently serves as pastor at Time of Grace Community Fellowship on Davison Road in Flint. A website for the Flint church does not list Pastor Vliet as being affiliated with their church in any way and a message at the church has not yet been returned. A Facebook Page for Old Beth-El General Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township also does not list Pastor Vliet and has only three “likes” registered on it, but a sign in front of the church, however, does have Vliet listed as its pastor. No phone number could be obtained for Old Beth-El General Baptist Church.

As of the writing of this post, I found no final disposition of Vliet’s case, or whether he is still a pastor.

I did, however, receive a comment from a man who says the case against Vliet is all lies — a conspiracy between the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor (all grammar and spelling in the original):

Do you believe in truth in reporting? I would think putting your name on this article you would have some integrity. did you investigate any of this information you posted or are you just here to Bash any Pastor to push your atheism?

This man is innocent he has taken the evidence to the FBI to prove that he’s innocent.

And I don’t know any guilty person that would do that. but let me just tell you Bruce when the old woman passed her children tried to come in and steal everything from the old man and put him in a home and they tried to do that before his kids could find out she passed so they could take what little bit they had they actually tried prior to her passing. And when the pastor wouldn’t allow them to do that then they took advantage of the fact they had a deputy in the family working for the Sheriff’s Department and they conjured up all kinds of things and decided if they couldn’t steal it from the old man that they would contact a daughter and start all this BS.

Now the daughter by her own admission in the police report admit she hadn’t had a relationship with her father in over 20 years fact is she wouldn’t even take his call the old woman and the old man told several people this.

Don’t you find it strange the police or no one who had contact with a couple or was in or out of their home didn’t talk to any of them didn’t interview anyone in the church they claimed the pastor had Powers of Attorney over everyone in the church

yeah I’m part of the church and I can tell you not one member does the pastor hold a power of attorney over or even another human being.

In addition everything else that was put in news media what’s a complete lie fabricated by the Sheriff’s Department.

If you want the truth and you want to prove email me we will send you all you need to know the print the truth. Unless of course you’re not interested in the truth the Constitution gives you the right of free speech Integrity gives you the right of Truth in free speech.

I responded:

This series relies on publicly reported stories. On November 25, 2019, Raymond Vliet pleaded no contest and was ordered to pay restitution. I will update the story to reflect this. If you have any further public news stories about this case that show what I have reported is incorrect, please provide them. I always want these stories to be accurate. You saying something did or didn’t happen is not the same as a verifiable news report. I’ve written 800 of these stories. Occasionally, people contact me, as you have, outraged that I’ve printed a “false” story. Yet, when asked to provide public news stories that support their claims, they are unable to do so.

For future reference, passively-aggressively besmirching my character is so “Christian” on your part. You want my help, yet you insult me.

If you have actual evidence to send me, please use the contact form at the top of the page.

Bruce Gerencser

As of today, this commenter has not provided any verifiable public information to support his claim that Vliet is being railroaded by the Genesee County sheriff’s department and county prosecutor. If such evidence is provided — and I did a through web search on this story — I will gladly amend this post.

Update on October 26, 2020:

7th Judicial Circuit Court records state that on December 11, 2019, the judge approved Vliet’s motion to withdraw his plea. As of October 12, 2020, Vliet’s case is awaiting trial.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Shawn Greaves Pleads Guilty to Battery

shawn greaves

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2017, Shawn Greaves, pastor of Faith Family Outreach Ministries in Kissimmee, Florida and a long time school teacher, was accused of battery and attempted kidnapping of another teacher.

WESH-2 reported the time:

Deputies said Shawn Greaves, 52, threw a woman in a classroom closet and made sexual advances earlier this month.

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The longtime teacher at Parkway Middle School stands accused of battery and attempted kidnapping of another teacher.

Osceola County deputies arrested Greaves on Tuesday, but the incident allegedly took place inside the school two weeks ago.

In the classroom of a third teacher, a woman told police on April 5 that Greaves, “put his hands around her buttocks area, lifted her up and threw her over his shoulder.” Greaves then allegedly carried the woman over to a closet, where he put her on a desk and, “pressed his body against hers,” thrusting several times.

The woman said she kept telling him to stop, before Greaves left.

A call went out to parents of students on Wednesday from the principal of the school, alerting them to the arrest.

Greaves is also listed as the president/director and senior pastor of Faith Family Outreach Ministries in Kissimmee, where at least one neighbor couldn’t believe he’d been arrested.

“For the most part, he’s an awesome person. I’ve never seen him do anything like that, ever,” a neighbor told WESH 2 News.

Greaves was reassigned from his work at Parkway Middle School and moved to another facility where he’s not around kids.

Although the report details sexual advances, Greaves got out of jail on Wednesday, charged only with simple battery and attempted kidnapping.

I heard nothing more about this story until a commenter recently left the following comment:

I personally worked with Pastor Greaves as a Special Education facilitator. He began a student daily prayer in the morning before school. He empathized with the students and supported the teachers. The principal, the “victim” and the other alleged witness, were all in the scheme. After posting his picture on the news, it destroyed a school community among staff, teachers, and students. This was a disgrace done to him, eventually the “victims” own lawyers dropped the charges. Finding him innocent, his faith in the Lord and his devotion to his ministry, gave him the strength to overcome. You should update your original post. Thank you.

I replied:

I found no public news story that says charges against Shawn Greaves were dropped. It is prosecutors not the victims that can drop charges against an alleged criminal, so you are most certainly wrong on this count. That said, if you have verifiable information that shows that charges against Greaves have been dropped, I will gladly amend this story. I always want these reports to be factual. I hope you understand that I can’t just “take your word for it.” Numerous people have, over the years, told me similar things about this or that accused pastor (including the pastors themselves), only to find out they were lying. All I ask is that you provide evidence for your claim that I can publicly verify.

Thanks!

Bruce Gerencser

The commenter, as is almost always the case, had no evidence for her claims. While I did not find any updated news stories about Pastor Greaves, my editor did. She located a Florida Education Practices Commission hearing disposition on Shawn Greaves’ teacher’s certificate. You can read the PDF document here.

According to this document, Greaves pled guilty to battery:

On or about November 27, 2017, as a result of the conduct alleged herein, Respondent pled guilty to False Imprisonment, and an order of Nolle Prosequi was entered for the charge, and Respondent pled guilty to Battery and adjudication was withheld.

Greaves’ teacher’s certificate was revoked for six months. He was placed on probation for two employment years.

The Education Practices Commission set other requirements for Greaves to regain his teacher’s certificate. You can find those requirements in the aforementioned document.

According to the Florida Teacher’s Certificate Database, Greaves’ certificate, as of October 14, 2020, remains revoked.

shawn greaves teaching license

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Richard Micks Sentenced to Life in Prison for Rape

richard mick

(Previous posts about Richard Mick: Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Richard Micks Second Rape Trial Declared a Mistrial and Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Richard Mick has Rape Conviction Overturned and Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Richard Mick Faces New Trial, Out on Bond and Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Richard Mick on Trial Again for Rape.)

The third time is a charm for the victims of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor Richard Mick. After two contentious mistrials, Mick’s third trial began last week, ending in a conviction on one count of rape and eight counts of gross sexual imposition. On Tuesday, the former pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sandusky, Ohio was sentenced to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in about ten years.

The Sandusky Register reported:

His [Mick’s] first trial, in 2016, ended in a conviction after his then-attorney K. Ronald Bailey refused to participate in the trial, citing grievances with decisions of the trial judge, Roger Binette. Earlier this year, Bailey received a one-year law license suspension for his conduct in the trial.

Mick received a life prison sentence, but in 2018 an appeals court overturned the conviction and granted him a new trial.

Mick’s second trial started in 2019 but it didn’t make it to a jury’s verdict. After several days of testimony, the defense announced to the trial judge, Tygh Tone, the prosecution didn’t give them a piece of evidence — a police report — during pre-trial discovery. Tone declared a mistrial.

After Mick’s sentencing, the Sandusky Reporter reported:

Visiting Judge John Haas sentenced Richard Mick, 59, formerly of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sandusky, to life in prison plus three years.

Mick, of Castalia, was convicted by a jury last Friday on nine felony counts — one count of rape and eight counts of gross sexual imposition — following a weeklong trial in Erie County’s Court of Common Pleas. Those charges relate to two victims, both of whom were children at the time of the offenses.

If released from prison, he’ll also have to register as a sex offender. Mick’s attorney, Chris Maher, said Mick should be eligible for parole in about 10 years.

None of the victims made impact statements Tuesday in court, but their families did.

The brother of one victim told Mick that he “(doesn’t) believe anyone is born evil.”

“I don’t believe you were born wanting to commit these crimes,” the brother said. “I cannot imagine what kind of life led you to what you’d done. Let your victims have peace. Be honest to your friends and family about what you’ve done.”

The father of a different victim also spoke, telling the judge to keep Mick in prison as long as possible.

“He’s broken man’s laws, he’s broken God’s laws,” the father said. “We can only address man’s laws here.”

As has long been the case, Mick continues to have people believe he is innocent. One church member stated:

He is loved and will continue to be loved and supported. [she said, before turning to face Mick] I love you, pastor. You will always be my pastor.

Mick’s brother added his support:

That I’ve ever known, he’s never done any wrong. I don’t really know what else to say but he’s a good man.

Ah yes, Mick is a beloved pastor, a good man who has never done any wrong. Well, besides raping and sexually assaulting children. What’s a few minor indiscretions among friends, right?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Primitive Baptist Pastor Benjamin “Gus” Harter Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

benjamin gus harter

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, Benjamin “Gus” Harter, pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia, was accused of repeatedly sexually molesting a girl under the age of sixteen. He was later accused of molesting other girls.

11-Alive reported at the time:

An arrest warrant details how Harter is charged with molesting a girl under the age of 16, touching her inappropriately as she lay in his bed on multiple occasions across at least three years, from 2012 to 2015.

Harter was arrested on Friday, and is being held without bond.

….

Church officials confirmed parts of a winding, expansive biography: Harter and his wife joined religious communities in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Texas and even as far away as the Philippines.

They have five adult children in addition their adopted children and more than 20 grandchildren.

Before joining Ebenezer Primitive, Harter worked at several other churches in the Southeast, and most notably spent three decades with Bethany Primitive Baptist Church in Suwanee until 2000.

At that time, Harter left the church and moved with his wife to the Philippines.

While there, he led two churches and helped build many more. He and his wife also built an orphanage. They returned to the U.S. in 2008.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

Benjamin “Gus” Harter, 80, had served as pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs since 2014, according to the church’s website. But Tuesday afternoon, tape covered Harter’s name on the sign outside the historic church. And Tuesday evening, an associate pastor said Harter was no longer pastor nor a member of the church.

Harter has led two churches and helped build dozens of others here and in the Philippines, where he and his wife built an orphanage. The Harters also adopted 19 children from the Asian country, according to his church biography, adding to their already large family.

….

Harter previously served as pastor of Bethany Primitive Baptist Church, now located in Suwanee, for nearly three decades beginning in November 1971. In the mid-1990s, Harter and his wife began traveling to the Philippines regularly to work with churches there.

He later resigned from Bethany church in May 2000 and moved with his family to the Philippines for several years, according to the Ebenezer Primitive Baptist website. In the Philippines, the Harters built an orphanage before returning to the U.S. in 2008. The couple adopted 19 children over the years, bringing them back to their home.

“For over 7 years, Gus traveled, taught, and served the fast growing primitive baptist congregations of the Philippines,” the church’s website states. “In that time he participated in the formation of over 100 new congregations and helped constitute over 60 as churches.”

After Harter and his family returned to the U.S., he served several months as co-pastor of a Texas church before returning to Atlanta and Bethany. He led the church through a move from Tucker to Suwanee.

In a 2012 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the pastor explained that the word primitive means original.

“We worship like they did when they came over from England. We’re very fundamental, and not charismatic,”Harter said. “The closest to us theologically is a reformed Presbyterian church.”

A Florida native, Harter completed undergraduate studies at Southeastern Bible College in Alabama, where he began serving as pastor of a small Methodist church, the AJC previously reported. He continued his education at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, where he first attended a Primitive Baptist church. Harter served as a pastor in Kentucky for two years and in Florida for seven years before moving to the Atlanta area.

In October 2019, 11-Alive reported on the additional charges levied against Harter:

A pastor already accused of molesting a girl under the age of 16 multiple times is now facing more charges of sex crimes involving minors, bringing the total number to three. 

Last month, Benjamin “Gus” Harter, 80, was arrested for one count of child molestation – accused of touching the 16-year-old inappropriately as she lay in his bed on multiple occasions across at least three years, from 2012 to 2015.

Now, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office confirms two new charges of child molestation – one for each new alleged victim. The allegations, officials said, are similar to the previous one and happened within Forsyth County. Harter resides in Cumming, Georgia in Forsyth County.

In 2014, Reporter Newspapers reported on Harter coming to Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church:

I came here to make this historic church work,” he[Harter] said. “I don’t want to see it die.”

Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church has fallen on hard times. First established in 1829, it sits on the corner of Roberts and Spalding Drives. But whereas it had over 1,000 people attend service in 1928, its membership dropped to an all-time low this spring.

“When I came, Edward Cagle [the previous pastor] was the only active member of the church,” Harter said. “But 27 people joined with me so we’ve got a basic start.”

Patsy Froy is one of the members who moved with Harter from Bethany Primitive Baptist Church to Ebenezer. “I’ve known him my whole life, basically,” she said. “He’s been there for funerals, babies being born, weddings. He’s a very influential person in my life.”

Harter plans on renovating the church as his first order of business. The current brick building stands across the street from the original church, which Harter said was taken apart by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The building as it is now is the church’s fourth reconstruction.

“I want to dress it up, but I don’t want to lose the antiquity of it,” said Harter. “It’s a beautiful church.”

He thinks that this beauty alone, coupled with the improvements, will help attract new members. But Harter also believes that the church offers something different.

“We are not contemporary, but we are unique,” he said. “Every service has 30 minutes of a capella singing, and about 45 minutes to an hour of expository preaching. And we have a potluck lunch after church.”

Primitive Baptists are known for the simplicity of their worship. No musical instruments are allowed in church, so members engage in Sacred Harp singing, a tradition where singers use their voices as instruments in four-part harmony. There are also no divisions by age or gender. This means that children attend services and are encouraged to participate in all activities.

Earlier this week, Harter pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation. The good pastor was sentenced to twenty years — five years in prison and fifteen years on sex offender probation.

11-Alive reports:

An 81-year-old man who was a pastor at churches in metro Atlanta and around the world is now facing the next five years in prison after admitting to child molestation charges.

According to the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, Benjamin Harter of Cumming, pleaded guilty of three counts of child molestation and was sentenced to 20 years — five years in prison with the remainder on sex offender probation.

It seems likely that Pastor Harter has a long track record of sexually molesting children. Ever the Calvinist, I suppose Harter can say that his predatory behavor was decreed by the sovereign God of John Calvin.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB School Teacher David Beckner Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Prison

david beckner

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, David Beckner, a former teacher at Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord, Michigan, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a female student. The Gaylord Herald Times reported at the time:

David Beckner, 51, of West Virginia was arraigned Thursday afternoon in 87th District Court on eight criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly abusing a teen girl in 2006 and 2007 in Otsego County.

Brendan Curran, Otsego County prosecutor, said the official complaint by Michigan State Police was filed June 13 for sex offenses committed upon a teen in Otsego County.

“I have charged David Wayne Beckner (presently residing in West Virginia) with seven counts of CSC 3rd degree and one count of CSC 4th degree, for seven sexual penetrations and one touching of a minor child who was a student of Beckner’s at the time their relationship began,” Curran said in an email.

According to a Michigan State Police news release Thursday evening, Beckner resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, and turned himself in Thursday. The release also said Beckner worked for the Grace Baptist Church from September 2004 until June 2007 before moving out of state.

….

Brianna Kenyon, a former Grace Baptist student, alleges that Beckner abused her as a minor and has publicly shared her story.

“When I grew up in that church, we’re all so isolated from the real world that I always thought I was the only one in the world, let alone in my church, that had ever had anything sexual happen to them. I was so alone for years and years; it wasn’t until I was (into adulthood) that I realized it actually happens a lot.”

Kenyon, 29, said she reported Beckner years ago for criminal sexual conduct to police and to the school’s pastor, Jon Jenkins, in 2011.

In an email, Jenkins said, it would be “a favorable outcome if justice can be achieved for Brianna.” He said, “Grace Baptist Church has always, and continues to stand in favor of justice for the victim.”

Previous Herald Times Freedom of Information Act requests returned no reports from the pastor or church to police of the alleged abuse.

Kenyon said the prosecutor at that time opted to not pursue the case and it was dropped.

….

Early this year, Ruthy Nordgren, now an adult, shared her story with the Herald Times and others publicly.
Nordgren is also a former Grace Baptist student and teacher Aaron Willand was convicted in 2016 of abusing her in Washington state.

Nordgren said she is also pursuing charges in Otsego County for abuse that she said happened when she was a student.

“And when Ruthy messaged me (about sharing publicly in the news), I thought, what could it hurt,” Kenyon said. “I couldn’t really get any justice for myself, and I figured if someone could be helped by my story and (they can see) here’s a girl that survived, and I do live a normal life and I do treat others well and I didn’t use this as a reason to be another monster.”

Grace Baptist Church is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

According to the Gaylord Herald Times:

Beckner joins the growing list of people with ties to Grace Baptist Church and school who have been convicted or accused of sexually abusing minors in the last 17 years. Another teacher, a bus driver, youth conference guest speaker and former congregation members are among those already convicted or facing criminal sexual conduct charges.

Despite all of this, Jon Jenkins remains the pastor of Grace Baptist. Last May, Jenkins celebrated his thirty-third anniversary at the church. He has “much” to be grateful for. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Since the original story on David Beckner, Beckner has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison.

9&10 News reports:

David Beckner was sentenced to 10 to 15 years behind bars for the third-degree sex crimes.

State police say it happened in 2006 while the victim was a 16- or 17-year-old student at Grace Baptist in Gaylord.

State police initially investigated the case in 2013, but the former Otsego County prosecutor did not file charges.

12-WBOY adds:

According to the Otsego County Prosecutor’s Office, David Beckner, 51, of Morgantown, had previously pleaded guilty to three of seven charges of sexual misconduct against a girl whom Beckner had contact with while she was his student.

Despite the charges coming from Michigan, Beckner was allowed to remain in his Morgantown home during the trial process on “liberty at bond” due to “medical issues,” rather than being remanded to Michigan, according to the prosecutor’s office.

….

During the sentencing, the victim in Beckner’s case took time to speak, and the judge took her words into consideration when he made his sentencing decision. The prosecutor’s office said the charges Beckner received usually bring a 5-year minimum sentence, but Judge George J. Metz gave Beckner a 10-year minimum sentence, instead.

After giving the sentence, Metz said, “There are various reasons for prison sentences: punishment, deterrence, protection of society and rehabilitation. In this case, only the first three apply,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

And Jon Jenkins? Well, he packed up his roadshow and moved to North Carolina to become the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton. If you are unfamiliar with what has gone on at Grace Baptist under Jon Jenkins’ watch, please read the Aaron Willand story.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Willie Forrest Accused of Sexually Molesting Children

pastor willie forrest

Willie Forrest, pastor of Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist Church in Pope, Mississippi, stands accused of sexually molesting several children on his church’s property.

WLBT-3 reports:

Willie Forrest is pastor of Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist in Panola County.

Church members tell us they are shocked by the allegations. They say they haven’t heard any rumors or talk about sexual impropriety at the church.

“It’s very shocking,” said Minnie Doyle, church member.

Forrest has served as pastor at the church for 14 years.

“He had a great church,” said Doyle. “You’d never think anything like that was going on.”

Forrest is charged with three counts of molesting children under the age of 15.

District Attorney John Champion said the alleged crimes happened at the church and Forrest’s home in Coldwater where he was arrested Monday.

….

Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist Church is on a hill in the main part of the community of Pope, which has a population of about 200 people.

The church is close to an elementary school.

“I don’t like it,” said Pope resident Caroline Reddick. “It is too close to the school, and how long has it been going on? How long has he been there? That’s what I’m saying. That’s very bad.”

Word of Forrest’s arrest has spread around Pope. One woman in a convenience store said she was shocked. She said she didn’t know the pastor personally but he would visit the store occasionally and he seemed nice.

“He seemed nice.” “He had a great church.” People are shocked when they hear that a local pastor — perhaps their pastor — is accused of sex crimes. It’s as if pastors are morally superior to everyone else, pillars of moral virtue. This naivety is what allows predatory preachers to commit heinous crimes, often for years. If the Black Collar Crime series teaches us anything, it is this: pastors are not, in any way, more or less moral than the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Blind trust in church leaders by congregants and community members allows predators to cause incalculable harm to others. Until congregants start paying close attention to the behavior of church leaders, this kind of stuff will continue to happen. Forrest may be a “nice” man, a wonderful pastor of a “great” church, but according to news stories, he is also a sexual predator.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Findlay Catholic Priest Michael Zacharias Accused of Sexually Assaulting Minors

Michael Zacharias

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Michael Zacharias, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay Ohio, stands accused of grooming and sexually assaulting minors for years. (I attended high school in Findlay in the 1970s. Several of my friends attended St. Michael’s.)

The Toledo Blade reports:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, alleging that he groomed and sexually assaulted minors for years, beginning in Toledo.

Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith said the Rev. Michael Zacharias, 53, is believed to have groomed and sexually assaulted minors since the late 1990s.

The Northwest Ohio Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force took the priest into custody after he presided at a 7 a.m. Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish. Father Zacharias faces charges of coercion and enticement, sex trafficking of a minor, and sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, or coercion, according to court documents.

….

Agent Smith addressed the media at a morning news conference outside the priest’s residence on Greendale Avenue in Findlay, which abuts the parking lot of the parish grounds. He said the criminal complaint filed against the priest includes accounts from two victims, but his department believes there have been others.

….

“It’s imperative that those other individuals out there come forward,” he said on Tuesday. “Your contact with us will remain strictly confidential.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo announced that Father Zacharias was put on administrative leave effective immediately upon hearing word of his arrest. This means he cannot exercise public ministry, administer sacraments, or present himself as a priest. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure while an allegation is being investigated.

Bishop Daniel Thomas responded in a statement:

“I am profoundly shocked and grieved to learn of these charges against one of our priests,” he said. “The Church cannot and will not tolerate any such behavior and takes any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of a cleric with the utmost seriousness. As we await the outcome of the criminal investigation, our prayers go out to anyone affected by this situation.”

The diocese indicated that these are the first allegations raised against Father Zacharias.

Father Zacharias was ordained in 2002, according to the diocese.

He is most recently the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017. The parish serves about 3,300 households, and is affiliated with St. Michael the Archangel School, which covers preschool through eighth grade.

The diocese identified his previous assignments as St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Toledo as a seminarian between 1999 and 2000; St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, Ohio as an associate pastor between 2002 and 2007; St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Van Wert as pastor between 2007 and 2011; St. Joseph and St. Ann Parishes in Fremont as pastor between 2011 and 2017; and St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017.

Investigators allege in court records that he began to groom two male victims, currently ages 32 and 26, while he was a seminarian and they were students at St. Catherine of Siena. One met Father Zacharias in the sixth grade, the other in the first grade, according to the complaint.

Each described to agents drug addictions that began in their teen years, and alleged that the priest would help fund their drug habits by paying them for oral sex. This began while they were underage and, in the case of one of the victims, continued until as recently as July.

The complaint indicates that these exchanges occurred at times in parish rectories, including Father Zacharias’ diocese-owned residence in Findlay.

The complaint also indicates that in the case of the victim with whom he was in touch as recently as July, Father Zacharias would request and at times pay for videos in which he performed sex acts on the victim and in which he confessed to grooming the victim. The complaint references multiple text messages between the victim and the priest.

….

Father Zacharias was one of several ordinands who spoke with The Blade in 2002, reflecting on their vocations amid seismic revelations of widespread clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as reported by the Boston Globe.

Then-Deacon Zacharias said that his cohort of priests would bring with them an understanding of sexuality as a part of who they are.

“In the past I don’t want to say they denied it, but it seems as though they were told, ‘You’re going to be a priest, you’re going to be celibate,’” he told The Blade then. By contrast, he said contemporary seminarians were taught to have healthy and appropriate relationships.

Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn responded to the news in a statement on Tuesday.

“I am distraught by the news of the arrest of Father Michael Zacharias,” she said. “These allegations are not taken lightly, and the Findlay Police Department and our community at large will support the full and thorough investigation by the FBI. Such abuse of power, and perversion of sexuality is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any organization, individual, or society.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland Charged with Sex Crimes

Pastor Stricjavvar Strick Strickland

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, pastor of Second Baptist Church (website not active) in Kalamazoo, Michigan stands accused of sexually assaulting four teenboys, paying them to have sex with his wife while he watched.

Strickland faces two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct on a student, another on a person age 13-15 and another by force or coercion. The good pastor also faces four counts of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity and three counts of child sexually abusive activity.

MLive reports:

A Kalamazoo pastor accused of sexually assaulting four male victims between the ages of 15 and 17 is said to have paid the children to have sex with his wife while he watched.

The Rev. Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, of Kalamazoo’s Second Baptist Church, has been charged with 11 felonies connected to alleged incidents spanning from Aug. 1, 2015- Aug. 31, 2018, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week in Kalamazoo County District Court.

….

A warrant for Strickland’s arrest was issued Aug. 21. As of Tuesday, Aug. 25, the pastor was yet to turn himself in. His attorney, Michael Hills, told MLive early Tuesday, that the two were making arrangements for the pastor to turn himself in.

….

“It has been two years since these allegations first came forward and Pastor Strickland has remained in contact and available. He is not running from this,” Hills said. “Pastor Strickland remains ready to turn himself in and deal with these charges accordingly.”

….

If convicted, the pastor faces a potential penalty of 15 years in prison on each of the first four charges, and 20 years on each of the other seven charges, according to his warrant.

….

In a bond recommendation, filed with the court along with the arrest affidavit, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Christin J. Mehrtens-Carlin recommends the court not allow the pastor to have any contact with the four alleged victims, his wife Jazmonique Strickland, or anyone under the age of 18.

“Per the reports, the defendant and his wife would use their employment at Phoenix High School (in Kalamazoo) and to some extent, the defendant would use his work as a pastor, to find male teens to engage in sexual activity with the wife, while the defendant watched and masturbated,” Mehrtens-Carlin writes in her bond recommendation.

Pastor Strickland calls the charges against him “absolutely preposterous.” Strickland added, “All I can say for now is that we are prepared for this fight. God will prevail.”

It is doubtful that God will show up on the scene to deliver Pastor Strickland from his predicament. Hopefully, justice will prevail. Kudos to Michigan state police and prosecutors for not letting Strickland’s notoriety stand in the way of seeking criminal charges against him.

According to an archived bio page for Strickland:

Pastor Strick Strickland succeeds Rev. Matthew W. Wright as pastor of Second Baptist Church and was elected January 22, 2012. Strickland has been preaching since age 19, a year after he got saved. He says that although he grew up in the church in Warren Hill, Mississippi, he didn’t really accept Christ until age 18. Apart of what helped him make his decision in the end was seeing his peers struggle on the streets where he grew up. In fact, he mentions that he had strayed away from church for a while. He got into trouble and landed in an alternative school. However, even there he excelled academically and tested in the top 5 percentile of students across the nation. He was in a gang and was labeled “Expected to fail”. Thus, Pastor Strickland’s story is one of how God is still a God of miracles, even today.

When asked how he knew he was called to preach, he replied, “Because it was the last thing I wanted to do”. He says that it was not only that he didn’t want to preach, but it was also that he didn’t relish the lifestyle of a preacher.

Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist. Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist.

Pastor Strickland is also a national recording artist and the lead singer for a group called the True Believers. We hope that through his preaching and singing many souls will be won for the Kingdom of God. Since his election at Second Baptist Church, he has been involved in the Spiritual Awakening Services at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Jump Start Revival at his church, and spoke on 95.5 FM radio. As a young pastor, this is an example other young people that want to become pastors, ministers, singers or entrepreneurs can learn from.

Pastor Strickland relocated to Michigan, while most of his family lives in Mississippi where he was raised by his grandmother as an only child. His grandmother was a spiritually-oriented woman who helped him with his homework every night. He was in junior high school when he found out that his grandmother could not read or write. The way Strickland learned, however was heeding her advice to “sound out the words”. His mother Ida M. Turner resides in Joliet, Illinois along with his uncle, aunt, and a host of other relatives. Strickland says he is excited to be closer to his mother as he is her only child and she is his biggest fan.

An August 2018 WWMT-3 news report alleged that Strickland had a sexual relationship Aniya Mack. Mack was later murdered by her boyfriend, Donnovan Lewis. Strickland released the following statement, denying the allegations against him:

All of the things that I am being Accused of are ministry related!

1. Second Baptist under my leadership has helped more than 30 families with transportation barriers Aniya’s situation was no different.

2. We have shared thousands of dollars of resources to help members with rent, utilities, food…

3. The All Expenses Paid trip was a choir trip with 50 other people. This trip was also all expenses paid for all College Students of which there was 6-8 more! Who all shared rooms together. My family wife and kids where with us…

lastly, this is an attempt to discredit the church, the NAACP, and the black leader. However, I’m not running from this story. I am rather trying to be sensitive to the source of your information (A young man I don’t know at all. Who has killed his ex-girlfriend and is declaring himself insane!) his family deserves peace and my response to the propaganda will only disrupt their peace!

Ultimately and finally, I have no control over people’s dreams and feel that it is extremely unfair that I be held accountable for was a person thinks or imagines is happening!

In this particular case we have a young man who has confessed to murder and I’m sure that had I been a white leader here in Kalamazoo that would be no story especially based solely upon the word of a confessed killer and self-proclaimed insane suspect.

Aniya Mack’s memory deserves to be left in tack! Here is a young lady that has already lost her life and future and now she is being denigrated to nothing more than her pastor’s mistress! That’s the biggest injustice of all!

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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