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Category: Black Collar Crime

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Estevan Diaz Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

estevan diaz

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 December 2021, Estevan Diaz, a youth pastor at Cascade Community Church in Cascade, Idaho, was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

The Lewiston Tribune reported:

A youth pastor at the Cascade Community Church was arrested last week for felony sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl, according to Valley County court records.

Estevan Diaz, 45, was arrested Dec. 29 and charged with five counts of lewd conduct with a child younger than 16 and two counts of enticing a child through the internet, video image or other communication device.

Diaz was fired from his position at the church, Pastor Andy Wegener said.

“The church is shocked and grieved over what has happened, and we are working with all individuals who have been impacted to get them every resource available for healing,” Wegener said.The victim’s mother reported to the Valley County Sheriffs Office that there were more than 700 inappropriate texts between Diaz and her child, court records said.

Police questioned Diaz and uncovered seven incidents of sexual contact between Diaz and the victim in December, the records said.

….

Diaz had been a youth pastor at the church at 109 W. Pine St. in Cascade since July 2021.

In November 2022, Diaz pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

KTVB-7 reported:

A former Cascade Community Church youth pastor has been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for lewd conduct with a child under 16 years old, the Valley County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday. 

45-year-old Estevan Diaz must serve five years minimum in a state prison before he is eligible for parole.

The sheriff’s office said Diaz was arrested in December 2021.

The prosecutor’s office said the victim was a 13-year-old girl, and Diaz was a pastor at the time the crime was committed.

Online court records indicate prosecutors initially charged him with five counts of lewd conduct and two counts of enticing children through the internet. In a plea agreement, prosecutors moved to dismiss the enticement counts and all but one of the lewd conduct counts.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Dennis McCranie Charged with Child Sexual Battery

dennis mccranie

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.

Dennis McCranie, a pastor at Lakeside Church in Eastman, Georgia, stands accused of sexual battery involving three children under the age of sixteen.

The Georgia Gazette reports:

The GBI has arrested and charged Dennis McCranie, age 59, of Eastman, GA, with three counts of felony sexual battery. The GBI was requested to assist with this investigation by the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

The preliminary investigation indicates on Sunday, March 24, 2024, McCranie intentionally had inappropriate physical contact with three children under the age of 16 years old.   

On Wednesday, April 3, 2024, McCranie was arrested and booked into the Dodge County Law Enforcement Center.  

Before McCranie worked in Dodge County, he was employed for more than 30 years with the Georgia Department of Corrections. In 2013, he was promoted to Deputy Warden of Security at Wilcox State Prison. McCranie was also a pastor at Lakeside Church in Eastman but “due to the seriousness of these allegations, he has been released of all duties and been asked to refrain from the church campus until further notice”, according to a spokesperson for the church.

Lakeside Church released the following statement:

As many of you may have heard, Dennis McCranie was taken into custody. He was arrested on charges of sexual battery. The charges that have been made against him involve alleged misconduct towards children and/or underage minors. Dennis served as volunteer associate here at Lakeside and due to the seriousness of these allegations he has been released of all duties and been asked to refrain from the church campus until further notice. While the leadership of Lakeside regards these allegations very seriously, we have not, nor will we, prejudge those involved in this matter. We have taken all appropriate steps to protect the vulnerable and traumatized to the greatest extent possible in a responsible, professional, and Biblical manner. We pray for all involved and ask everyone else to kindly do the same.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Brett Bymaster Accused of Child Sexual Abuse

brett bymaster

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.

Bret Bymaster, a former youth pastor at The River Church Community in San Jose, California, stands accused of six felony counts of child sexual abuse.

The San Jose Spolightlight reports:

A prominent Silicon Valley leader and former pastor has been arrested and charged with six felony counts of child sex abuse, after being under investigation this year for allegations that surfaced about his time as a youth ministry leader at a popular South Bay church.

Brett Bymaster faces time behind bars for alleged lewd acts with a child who was as young as eight during his time at The River Church, according to charges by county prosecutors. He was arrested and booked at the Elmwood Correctional Facility on Thursday. His bond was set at $400,000, but at a Friday arraignment hearing, Judge Hector Ramon revoked his eligibility for bail at least until the next scheduled hearing on April 19, according to prosecutors. San José Spotlight first reported Bymaster’s alleged abuse in January.

Ramon ordered Bymaster not to contact the victim documented in the charges. He was also ordered not to contact another unnamed individual, according to the case’s prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Paynter.

Paynter said it’s too early to tell how much jail time Bymaster faces if found guilty of all charges. The trial date is a moving target.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Paynter told San José Spotlight.

Bymaster’s attorneys Renee Hessling and Dana Fite did not respond to requests for comment.

The arrest comes after a second investigation by The River Church in three years regarding Bymaster’s action, when five parishioner families say a 2021 probe led by church leaders failed to uncover the extent of his abuse and excluded one of the most serious claims — sexual abuse.

At the time, Bymaster denied the allegations in a statement to San José Spotlight.

“In recent months, we have discovered that there were profound flaws in the original pastoral inquiry process and in the denominational report (which was never released publicly but only summarized by senior leaders),” church families wrote in an open letter in January. “We now believe that the inquiry process and the senior leadership withheld crucial information about the nature and scope of the abuse.”

Bymaster, a recognizable figure in advocacy and political circles, was still listed as a founder and executive director of the Healing Grove Health Center, a clinic that serves low-income families, on its website as of Friday afternoon.

….

Bymaster served as a youth pastor and director at The River, nestled on Lincoln Avenue, for five years beginning in 2014. He quit after getting a critical job review in August 2019 based on complaints about his leadership from church families.

Yet two years later, youth from the congregation raised more significant concerns about Bymaster.

The church launched an internal inquiry in 2021 led by its own leader the Rev. Theresa Marks, according to an email sent in January from three top church leaders, including lead pastor Brad Wong.

Marks found that Bymaster was a “toxic leader who was spiritually abusive,” and encouraged church leaders to summarize her findings in a letter. The probe from Marks, which included interviews with 25 individuals, also questioned the church’s management of Bymaster.

“We take full responsibility for not doing the job of keeping our youth and youth volunteers safe in our youth ministry. We did not provide adequate oversight of the youth program or our former youth pastor,” church leaders wrote in an August 2021 letter.

But parents of the alleged victims say the letter swept damning details under the rug and questioned whether some of the incidents should’ve been categorized as sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: IFB Evangelist Benjamin Garlick Accused of Sex Crimes Against Children, Wife Charged Too

Benjamin-Garlick-Shaantal-Garlick

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 2023, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist Benjamin Garlick was accused of five counts of Aggravated Rape of a Child, five counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor who was under the age of 13, one count of Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor who was under the age of 13, and one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child. Garlick’s wife, Shaantal, was also charged with one count of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of a Child and one count of Aggravated Child Abuse/ Endangerment to a child age 8 and younger.

WGNS reported:

An evangelist who calls the Blackman area home is facing a slew of charges that revolve around the rape of a child. Benjamin Garlick was taken into custody under a sealed indictment that was handed down by a Rutherford County Grand Jury.

According to court documents, Garlick was charged with 5-counts of Aggravated Rape of a Child, 5-counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor who was under the age of 13, 1-count of Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor who was under the age of 13, and 1-count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.

Prior to Garlick’s arrest, he led church services in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas, just to name a few. The suspect spoke Spanish fluently and frequented Spanish speaking congregations, events and organizations. Over the past few years, Garlick amassed thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook as a guest pastor, speaking at a variety of churches both large and small throughout the country.

The 32-year-old child rape suspect is currently behind bars in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Murfreesboro. Garlick is being held under a $750-thousand-dollar bond, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The suspect was taken into custody this past Tuesday on September 12, 2023, which was the same day that his wife Shaantal Garlick was arrested.

The courts show that Shaantal Garlick is facing 1-count of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of a Child and 1-count of Aggravated Child Abuse / Endangerment to a child age 8 and younger.

Shaantal Garlick, who is free after posting a $75-thousand bond, was in court just one month prior to her arrest. Mrs. Garlick filed for an Order of Protection against Benjamin Garlick last month on August 14, 2023. The order was filed in the Rutherford County Chancery Court under the Honorable Howard W. Wilson.

MPD Public Information Officer Larry Flowers told WGNS News on Tuesday the detective over the investigation says the Garlick case remains active and is ongoing. The crimes that Mr. Garlick is accused of committing date back to February of 2021, but again, the investigation is ongoing.

The Messenger added:

Police told WKRN they don’t know how many total victims there are, where they occurred or how Benjamin Garlick knew them. Police say the rapes allegedly happened on Feb. 13, 2021, and that the case is still under investigation.

The pastor was indicted Sept. 12 and booked into the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center, where he still remains. His was booked into jail and released on a $75,000 bond two days later.

One pastor in Murfreesboro told WKRN that he has known Garlick since he was a child, and called him a father with a “role model” family.

The preacher with the “perfect” family with the “perfect” wife, yet both of them are charged with sex crimes. Hmm . . .

benjamin garlick

The Roys Report added:

According to multiple reports, the couple has ministered as itinerant Christian evangelists with their six children. In recent years, the Garlicks have led church services in multiple states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and their home state of Tennessee. 

Authorities arrested Benjamin Garlick on Sept. 12 at his residence in Blackman, a suburb of Murfreesboro. Garlick remains in custody at Rutherford County Adult Detention Center on a $750,000 bond. 

Shaantal Garlick was also arrested on Sept 12. She bonded out on Sept. 15, paying $75,000 in fees. The charges against both Garlicks stem from actions that were alleged to have occurred on Feb. 13, 2021. 

The Garlicks have been supported in their itinerant ministry by First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, a flagship church of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. As of publication time, the couple was still listed on the church’s website as church-supported missionaries.

Last month, a grand jury indicted the Garlicks on additional charges.

Hoodline reports:

Murfreesboro police are doubling down on their call for potential victims to speak up in the case against a traveling pastor and his wife, both facing serious child rape charges. Benjamin Sean Garlick, 32, a minister known for preaching across the nation, particularly within the Hispanic community, and his wife, Shaantal, 30, are presently entangled in a legal maelstrom following a spate of charges that have come to light surrounding their alleged sexual abuse of minors.

According to WSMV, Benjamin Garlick was slammed with a litany of charges in September but now faces additional ones after a Rutherford County Grand Jury handed down a new indictment in March. The new charges include seven counts of aggravated rape of a child, six counts of aggravated sexual battery, along with two counts each of sexual exploitation of a minor and violation of the child protection act.

His spouse, Shaantal, also faces updated charges. As reported by FOX17, she has been reindicted on two counts each of facilitation of aggravated rape of a child and aggravated child neglect. Shaantal made bond last year but found herself under arrest again last month after the new indictment was served.

….

Murfreesboro police have been highlighting the urgency for any additional victims to come forward, particularly those from the Hispanic community who may have crossed paths with the Garlicks in their nationwide ministry.

For those potentially affected, the call is not merely an announcement—it is a beacon, a chance to speak, to be heard, and to potentially find a semblance of justice in a situation where power and trust have been so flagrantly exploited. The Garlicks’ travel across this country was not, as it seems, a mission of faith healing and community building, but perhaps one that left behind a darker, indelible mark on the lives of the vulnerable.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Former Evangelical Youth Pastor Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Girls

Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo

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.

Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo, formerly a youth pastor at Vida Abundante Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, stands accused of sexually assaulting multiple church girls over the past three decades.

Fox-31 reports:

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office arrested a former youth pastor in March on charges of sexually assaulting multiple children over the course of three decades.

The former youth pastor has been identified as Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo, 65, of Fort Collins. He was involved with the Vida Abundante church in northern Fort Collins, where he served as a youth pastor. Before that, Gomez-Perdomo lived in Fort Morgan and Houston.

Because of his position and the pattern reported by several victims, police are concerned that there may be additional victims who have yet to come forward.

….

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office began investigating after a report was made in early 2023. A teenage victim identified Gomez-Perdomo and told police that he sexually assaulted her in the early 2000s when she was a child. LCSO said she told law enforcement that she did not report the assault because she was afraid of the repercussions.

She came forward, the sheriff’s office said, because she learned other teenagers had allegedly experienced similar abuse by Gomez-Perdomo.

The sheriff’s office investigators found Gomez-Perdomo was reported for sexual assault in 2019 by a different victim, but the district attorney’s office declined to file charges then. Gomez-Perdomo is alleged to have left the Vida Abundante church after these allegations.

Investigators said the 2019 case was reopened in conjunction with the newer allegations.

During this, another victim came forward, according to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. She described a similar pattern of abuse during the late 1990s that occurred when she was a young child. She told investigators that Gomez-Perdomo met her family through church and after he was a trusted family friend he assaulted her.

Gomez-Perdomo was arrested in March on five counts of sexual assault on a child from a person in a position of trust and one count of sexual assault on a child. He was booked into the Larimer County Jail and a judge issued a $200,000 cash or surety bond. Additional charges are pending.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Michael Bryant Accused of Theft

pastor michael bryant

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 Bryant, pastor of Greater Sweetfield Missionary Baptist Church in Coconut Grove (Miami), Florida, stands accused of collecting the social security benefits of someone who died nearly 12 years ago. He faces numerous charges, including theft of government funds and making false statements to a federal agency. 

Channel 10 reports:

A pastor in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood is facing federal criminal charges after investigators said he collected on a dead person’s Social Security benefits for more than a decade.

Michael Gene Bryant, 57, is facing charges including theft of government funds and making false statements to a federal agency. He is the pastor of Greater Sweetfield Missionary Baptist Church, located at 3585 Plaza St.

According to a federal indictment, Bryant became the representative payee for a person identified in court documents as “H. L. G.” in 1996.

“H. L. G.” died on Oct. 17, 2012, but authorities said Bryant never informed Social Security and kept collecting payments until this January. Prosecutors said he lied on government documents and claimed the beneficiary still lived with him.

The documents don’t state how much money authorities are accusing Bryant of collecting.

No one came to the door when Local 10 News went to Bryant’s home to ask him about the charges.

A former parishioner said she’s “shocked” by the allegations and “in disbelief.”

“That is like unbelievable to me,” Charolette Smith, who lives right next to the church, said. “You go there to hear the word. Coming from a pastor, it’s like, what are you doing?”

He could face up to two decades behind bars.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Volunteer Brandon Saylor Sentenced to 5-15 Years for Sexual Misconduct with Children

brandon saylor

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.

Earlier this year, Brandon Saylor, a volunteer at Living Word Church in Midland, Michigan, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under 13. Living Word is operated by Mark Barclay Ministries.

Our Midland reports:

A Midland man pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under 13, admitting he did it for his own sexual gratification between 2010 and 2023.

A Midland man pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under 13, admitting he did it for his own sexual gratification between 2010 and 2023.

Prior to accepting Saylor’s plea, Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Beale told Saylor he was placing a minimum sentence of 60 months in prison and up to 15 years before asking him if he still wanted to plead to the crimes.

Saylor admitted to the judge he touched the children’s genitals while they were either clothed or unclothed, in all three cases. One of the victims was 5 years old when the first sexual conduct occurred. Saylor also said he was guilty of touching a fourth child’s genitals, who wasn’t among those he was charged for.

Midland County Assistant Prosecutor Courtney Driscoll said she was satisfied with Saylor’s admission of guilt, adding that he admitted responsibility for three of the highest charges. The crimes occurred when the victims were under 13 and Saylor was older than 17. Saylor is required to wear a lifetime GPS tether upon his prison release.

….

According to a Freedom of Information Act request, two other victims came forward with complaints from about 20 years ago. Driscoll said charges were not levied against Saylor in these cases because the statue of limitations had expired.

Midland County Sheriff Myron Greene said the investigation of Saylor in the present cases stemmed from a delayed report. The sheriff said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services referred the report to his office.

….

Saylor is the second person associated with Living Word Church to be charged with sex crimes. The Rev. James Randolph, 57, was arrested Nov. 28 and is charged with seven felonies. His charges are two counts of first-degree CSC involving a relationship; one second-degree CSC with a child under 13 while Randolph was older than 17; two counts of second-degree CSC involving a relationship; second-degree CSC or subsequent offense; and one count accosting children for immoral purposes for crimes allegedly occurring in 2011.

Recently, Saylor was sentenced to five-fifteen years in prison for his crimes.

ABC-12 reports:

A Midland man who was a Living Word Church volunteer will spend five to 15 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct.

Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Beale sentenced Brandon Saylor for sex crimes between 2010 and 2023.

Saylor took a plea deal on Jan. 5.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under the age of 13. Six of the charges were dismissed.

He was originally charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct and three counts of accosting children for immoral purposes.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Steve Parker Sentenced to 54 Months in Prison for Drug Trafficking

pastor steve parker

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.

[Parker] confessed to leading a double life and having two houses where he kept his godly life and criminal behavior separate. The house in Tulalip is where he conducts his criminal behavior and has a girlfriend. . . At the second home, Parker lived with his wife and mother-in-law, along with approximately 14 other people living on the property.

In 2023, Steve Parker, the director of Nest Ministries and the founder and executive director of Omni-Manna Services, both located in Arlington, Washington was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine as well as fentanyl and methamphetamine. He was also charged with counterfeiting controlled substances, maintaining a vehicle for drug trafficking; money laundering, and conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, fentanyl, and/or cocaine. All the charges are felonies.

The Christian Post reported:

Just over a year ago, as he was pictured on Facebook officiating a wedding, Washington pastor and grandfather Steve Parker was praised as an “amazing man of God.” Earlier this month, however, detectives in Skagit County arrested Parker, who allegedly had a stockpile of guns and drugs, after getting a tip that he was on his way to becoming “a high level drug dealer,” and his clean-cut family knew nothing about his double life.

On his Facebook page, Parker, 57, introduces himself as “a new convert, a soul in the midst of spiritual growth. A fish on the line.” He also lists himself as the director at NEST Ministries and founder and executive director of Omni-Manna Services, which is a supportive employment and housing service.

“We work within Snohomish County for those who have had troubled pasts, addictions, or just down on their luck. With the help of ProviderOne we are able to help find employment and low cost housing while counseling our clients through the process,” the Omni-Manna Services website says.

On Facebook, there are wholesome photos of Parker with family and friends and even a video of him belting out an inspiring rendition of Andrae Crouch’s “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.”

In court records reviewed by The Christian Post, the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit said they got a tip from sources in November 2022 that Parker had been distributing controlled substances in the counties of Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom.

“Information obtained from these sources is that Steve Parker has started to become a higher level drug dealer and that he possesses firearms, and deals fentanyl powder, fentanyl pills, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine,” an affidavit of probable cause explains. “Sources told detectives that Steve Parker is a pastor and that he has a business that helps people with addiction problems by assisting them with housing and jobs, although he deals drugs as well.”

On Jan. 19, as he drove his 2002 Subaru in Mount Vernon, police swooped down on Parker and found him with approximately two ounces of fentanyl powder and a loaded handgun. Deputies also noticed he had a live feed camera on his phone, and he turned it off as they were contacting him.

Acting later on a search warrant, detectives searched the Subaru and discovered more than 2.7 pounds of methamphetamine, some 2,000 counterfeit pills, another ounce of fentanyl powder and cocaine.

“Parker admitted the drugs were cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. Detectives also located packaging material commonly used in the distribution of drugs along with drug scales,” the affidavit says. “Parker also admitted he knew fentanyl was a very dangerous drug, and he has provided Narcan to an overdose victim in the past.”

Parker further told police that he needed multiple drug suppliers because he sources were not consistent and “bragged about being a good drug dealer, saying he is good at business.”

He also confessed to leading a double life and having two houses where he kept his godly life and criminal behavior separate.

“The house in Tulalip is where he conducts his criminal behavior and has a girlfriend. During the search warrant, detectives located several firearms and discovered there were surveillance cameras both inside and outside the home,” court records note.

At the second home, Parker lived with his wife and mother-in-law, along with approximately 14 other people living on the property.

“Parker said they did not know about his criminal activities. That was confirmed by detectives while servicing a warrant at that home,” investigators note.

A total of 30 firearms were recovered from both homes.

Parker recently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to fifty-four months in prison.

The Herald reports:

The Rev. Steve Parker was in jail when he told his associates to help his girlfriend deliver the pizzas, according to phone recordings recounted in court documents.

He reportedly talked about getting a good price, telling them his girlfriend would deliver for $3 instead of $6 or $7.

As it turned out, “pizza” was a code to discuss his multi-county drug trafficking business, investigators determined.

Parker, 58, of Arlington, pleaded guilty last month to eight felony charges in Skagit County Superior Court: four for possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, one for conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, one for money laundering, one for maintaining a vehicle or building for drug trafficking, and another for possession of a stolen firearm.

Judge Thomas Verge sentenced Parker this month to 4½ years in prison.

Parker was known in Arlington for helping those with substance abuse issues. What most people didn’t know is that he supplied his clients with the very drugs they were struggling to recover from across Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, prosecutors alleged.

His family was unaware of his secret life, Parker reportedly told investigators.

Parker listed himself as an officer of Nest Ministries, a religious organization at 307 N. Olympic Ave., according to the charges. A reporter’s phone call to the ministry went to voicemail Wednesday.

State filings list “Rev Steve Parker” as the head of Omni-Mana, a service that “helps people who have had substance abuse or mental health issues fine employment.” Google lists the organization as temporarily closed.

In January, police arrested Parker in Mount Vernon while he was driving his 2002 Subaru. Investigators found 2 ounces of fentanyl, 2.7 pounds of methamphetamine, 2,000 counterfeit fentanyl pills and a handgun, charging papers say.

In an interview with investigators, Parker acknowledged resupplying his drugs three or four times a week from multiple suppliers. Text messages revealed he was also selling guns, according to court documents.

Primarily residing between Arlington and Darrington with his wife and mother-in-law, Parker conducted his drug business in a second home in Tulalip with a girlfriend, charges said. Jail calls between the two suggested the girlfriend continued delivering and selling drugs while he was behind bars, according to court documents.

Jail calls also revealed Parker let his clients live in the Tulalip house if they paid his girlfriend 50 “little friends” a week, meaning drugs, so she can “stay stable,” the charges say.

In his two houses, investigators found 30 guns, according to charging papers.

Drug dealing was a main source of income. He bragged to investigators that he was “good at business,” charges say. The money allowed him to purchase “high value” cars, like his 2011 Mercedes, registered under other people’s names.

Parker acknowledged knowing the dangers of fentanyl, telling investigators of a time he used Narcan to help someone overdosing. The counterfeit fentanyl pills he sold, masquerading to look like Oxycodone, have been linked to “numerous overdoses within Skagit County and have been a direct cause of several deaths,” prosecutors wrote.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Willie Wilkerson Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Drug Trafficking

mission church dorchester

In 2017, Willie Wilkerson, pastor of Mission Church in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, was arrested yesterday on charges of drug trafficking and intent to distribute.

NECN reported:

A Boston pastor is facing charges after police say they recovered crack cocaine, prescription pills, and $20,000 worth of stolen items at his residence and at the church he owns.

Willie Wilkerson, a pastor of Mission Church at 266 Quincy St. in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood, was arrested Tuesday on charges of trafficking and intent to distribute Class B and Class C drugs.

A search warrant was issued for Wilkerson, his home, the church and a Victoria’s Kitchen food trailer he owns, police said. They found drugs hidden inside coffee makers and printers.

A family member said the church and food trailer were previously owned by Wilkerson’s mother and denied the allegations.

“That’s crazy. That’s a lie,” Ivette Mitchell, Wilkerson’s niece said. “God is going to clear Willie from everything and everybody.”

Investigators found crack cocaine, fentanyl, oxycodone, Klonopin, Suboxone, as well as cutting agents and packaging materials, according to the district attorney’s office.

Investigators also found more than $10,000 and a number of stolen items estimated to be worth about $20,000.

A judge at Roxbury Municipal Court ordered Wilkerson to be held without bail for 90 days as a result of violating his probation, and then held on $50,000 bail afterwards. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.

In 2020, Wilkerson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Suffolk County District Attorney reported:

A Dorchester man pleaded guilty yesterday to drug trafficking and other offenses he committed over a period of years, District Attorney Rachael Rollins said.

WILLIE WILKERSON, 62, pleaded guilty to two dockets during an appearance yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court.  In a 2017 case, he pleaded guilty to charges including trafficking in cocaine (over 18 grams, under 36 grams) and trafficking in oxycodone (over 18 grams, under 36 grams).  In a case that was indicted earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to charges including trafficking in cocaine (over 18 grams, under 36 grams) and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Judge Mary Ames sentenced Pastor Wilkerson to four to five years in state prison, followed by three years of probation.

During the course of a 2017 investigation, Boston Police officers received information that Pastor Wilkerson was selling drugs out of his home and the Quincy Street church where he served as a pastor.  Officers coordinated a series of undercover purchases of narcotics from Pastor Wilkerson in the weeks and months leading up to May 2, 2017.  On that date, officers executed warrants at Pastor Wilkerson’s home, the church, and a food truck on the church’s property.  Those search warrants resulted in the recovery of approximately 30 grams of cocaine, 45 oxycodone pills, 9 grams of fentanyl, 73 grams of Buprenorphine, and approximately 32 Clonozapam tablets and paraphernalia used to package drugs for sale.

At his arraignment on this case, a judge in the Dorchester Division of Boston Municipal Court set bail at $50,000.  The case was subsequently indicted.  When arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on the indictment in July 2017, the Court set bail at $10,000 although the Commonwealth had requested $50,000.  Pastor Wilkerson posted the cash bail within one month.

While the defendant in the ensuing years was arraigned on several new offenses, the courts routinely revoked his bail for periods of sixty days and set additional cash bail.  The most recent bail revocation occurred in November 2020. 

 As Pastor Wilkerson continued to traffic in narcotics, authorities received community complaints about criminal activity in the area of his church.  On December 31, 2019, as the result of a multi-jurisdictional investigation, members of the Boston Police Department, Massachusetts State Police, and Boston FBI North Shore Gang Task Force executed search warrants at Pastor Wilkerson’s home, church, and on his person.  As a result, officers recovered 23 grams of crack cocaine, 45 methadone pills, 259 gabapentin tablets, 62 sildenafil pills, 14 rounds of .32 caliber ammunition, and paraphernalia used to package drugs for sale.

“These cases arose because community members used their voices and raised concerns about crime in the area of Pastor Wilkerson’s church. That this coward used his church to mask and hide his criminal behavior is awful. His actions inflicted harm on the community and the church congregation he was supposed to be serving. Now he has four to five years to think long and hard about his sins,” District Attorney Rollins said. “I’m grateful to the Boston Police Department for their attention to the community’s concerns, and to my staff for resolving this case in a manner that held Pastor Wilkerson accountable for the harm his actions inflicted.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor Dean Smith Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes Against Minor Girls

pastor dean smith

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 2023, Dean Smith, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Lame Deer, Montana, was accused of sexually assaulting at least four girls aged twelve and younger on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Morning Star Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The United States Attorney’s Office: District of Montana released the following statement:

A Lame Deer pastor appeared on a summons for arraignment today on sexual abuse charges alleged to have occurred on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Dean Alan Smith, 66, a pastor, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of aggravated sexual abuse, one count of abusive sexual contact and three counts of abusive sexual contact by force and of a child. If convicted of the most serious crime, Smith faces a maximum of life in prison, a $250,000 fine and not less than five years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Judge Cavan continued Smith’s release with conditions pending further proceedings.

An indictment, filed on Dec. 9, alleges that between 2017 and 2019 near Lame Deer, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Smith knowingly caused a person, identified as Jane Doe 1, to engage in a sexual act by using force and that Smith knowing caused Jane Doe 1 to engage in sexual contact by using force. The indictment further alleges that between 2017 and 2019, Smith knowingly caused a person, identified as Jane Doe 2, who had not attained the age of 12, to engage in sexual contact by force. In addition, the indictment alleges that between 2019 and 2020, Smith knowingly caused persons, identified as Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4, both who had not attained the age of 12, to engage in sexual contact by force.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI.

Native Sun News Today added:

In January 3, 2023, Dean Alan Smith, pastor of over twenty years at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Lame Deer, Montana, pled not guilty to federal charges filed the month before.

According to local media, Smith, age 66 was charged with sexually abusing four girls on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation between 2017 and 2019. Questions remain if there are other victims, as Smith served as a pastor on the reservation for years. That branch of the Baptist Church once had a private school for elementary students on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

A local support group of Northern Cheyenne advocates is asking other possible victims to come forward under the guidance of tribal members Hadley Shoulderblade and Diane Spotted Elk. “We demand justice for the victims and are trying to build funds for compensation,” these leaders recently posted on Facebook.

The Morning Star Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Congregation, sits on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Executive Director of that congregation said they have been in contact with the local church.

“One member of the church has been very open about what they are dealing with. I have let them know we are here to help the girls who have made these claims find the way to healing themselves,” said Montana Baptist Convention Executive Director Barrett Duke.

“The harder area is not in our cities but in the rural areas,” Duke Said. “They think they know the person. They are a little slower, I think, to adopt some of the processes to identify potential predators.”

Tribal leaders told Smith he is no longer welcome on the Reservation.  The local Morning Star Church held a meeting to that same effect, issuing a public statement via Facebook: “The Church is a body of people, not to be judged by the actions of one. We will continue our mission, though now it will be harder.”

The United Ministerial Association of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation also met and demanded Pastor Smith’s resignation. “This is very unfortunate and not in keeping with our mission,” they told the Northern Cheyenne community in a written statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case while Smith remains free on bond with conditions including his not being allowed around children. According to local sources, Smith has left the Reservation, his whereabouts not certain. If found guilty Smith could face life imprisonment, at $500,000 fine and registered as a life-long sexual offender.

According to a Facebook post by Josh Kolojeski:

I was the Site Director of the Northern Cheyenne Youthworks site in Lame Deer in 2016. In the final two weeks of the summer, three of my female staff members were informed by a member of the community that Dean Smith “took (a child’s) virginity,” and were advised by another member of the community to not be alone with Dean and to not let kids near him because he touches them.

I was off-site at a funeral for that day and that weekend, so my Area Director was there as the acting Site Director. The staff members verbally told him what they were told and reported it to the Boys and Girls Club that we were partnering with. When I returned to site on Sunday, they also reported it to me and I reported it again to my Area Director.

On one hand, we didn’t want to ruin Dean’s reputation if the information was simply unsubstantiated rumors. On the other hand, we wanted to make sure we were also reporting this information to people better equipped to investigate. In hindsight, we should have also reported it to the BIA, although we later learned that Dean had already been reported by someone in the community before our summer began. In order to promote a culture of safety, I told the staff members they didn’t have to attend his church for the final two Sunday’s of the summer, and I also went on the prayer walk that Dean led with the high school students each week, because the staff member that typically attended the prayer walk with Dean and the students was no longer comfortable doing it, understandably.

I also wanted to make sure full-time staff at Youthworks knew about the information that was reported to us so that they could ask more questions and re-evaluate whether or not to partner with Dean for 2017 and beyond. As I mentioned before, three members of the staff and I all reported the information to our Area Director, who was also the full-time Area Director for that site among others at the time. Additionally, I could be mistaken, but I’m 95% sure if you check my end of summer Site Director paperwork from 2016, you will see I made mention of Youthworks possibly reconsidering it’s relationship with Dean. In a section asking about anything that needed to be looked in on for future summers, I believe I said something along the lines of “three of my staff members heard rumors in the community about Pastor Dean that we reported to our Area Director, so Youthworks may want to look further into those rumors before partnering with him again in 2017.”

With that information, my questions are:

1. Did Youthworks take any action steps based on the reports made by the 2016 Site Staff?

2. If so, what action steps were taken and what information was considered when the decision was made to continue partnering with Dean in 2017, 2018, and 2019?

I understand that conducting a deep investigation is outside the purview of Youthworks, and I also know that the full-time staff that work and have worked at Youthworks are tremendous people and whatever was done or not done was obviously not out of malicious intent. But I’d also like to know what, if anything, informed Youthworks’ decision to keep sending staff and high school youth group students his way in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

I’d also like to add that one of the three aforementioned staff members has lived in or near Lame Deer since her summer with Youthworks. Another one of those staff members worked for Youthworks in Lame Deer again in 2017. They reported more information they learned to the 2016 Area Director, their 2017 Site Director, and their 2017 Area Director, who were all subsequently told that nothing could be done based off rumors. However, in July 16th, 2020, Youthworks posted a video of Pastor Dean talking about the Northern Cheyenne reservation. When two of the teammates saw this video, they emailed Youthworks and again reported the allegations that had been reported to them and told them that they were shocked to see the video of Dean being shared by Youthworks (I don’t know if it was also produced and created by Youthworks). In this case, Youthworks did respond directly to the two staff members, and the higher up’s had a. video call with the pair to discuss the allegations. Youthworks also deleted the video and contacted authorities, sounding the alarm either to the FBI directly or to an entity that ran it up the ladder to the point that it reached the FBI, and the former site staff was contacted by the FBI.

Perhaps an investigation was already ongoing, or perhaps Youthworks 2020 report to authorities sparked the investigation. In either case, that report from Youthworks to authorities would have been beneficial in 2016. If an investigation was already ongoing, law enforcement could have informed Youthworks that there was an active investigation and that it might be in their best interest to stop their partnership with Dean. If the report is what sparked the investigation, then the investigation could have been started four years earlier.

In those four years, Dean was allowed to continue to work with Youthworks staff and participants, continue to foster children (including, in 2017, four girls and one boy that spent a lot of time at our housing site and that the Youthworks staff in 2016 had really bonded with), and he was able to continue to run his Vacation Bible School.

I loved each of my four summers with Youthworks, and I don’t regret my experiences. Working with Youthworks truly had and still has a positive influence in my life and on my spiritual journey, and it matured me in positive ways. I also know that there was probably more I could have done during our final two weeks in Lame Deer as well. But I also think this statement leaves out key information of initial reports being made to Youthworks as early as 2016, and whether it was through miscommunication up the ladder or through disbelief, I think Youthworks dropped the ball in this instance.

Recently, Smith was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison. He will likely die behind bars.

The Billings Gazette reports:

A former Lame Deer pastor was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in federal prison for molesting foster children under his care. 

Dean Alan Smith, 67, served as the head of Morning Start Baptist Church on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation for just over two decades until his indictment in U.S. District Court on multiple counts of sex abuse. The foster children staying at his home came from the reservation, and the testimony of three children whom he abused led to his conviction late last year.

….

Smith, who previously lived in Florida, came to Montana with his family in 2001. Although he attended church regularly before the move, Smith testified during his trial, he became the pastor at Morning Star Baptist Church despite having no seminary training. As pastor, he hosted prayer walks, family nights and sobriety programs at the church. He also allowed children on the reservation to stay at his home. Some were the friends of his children. Others came to his house when they had nowhere else to stay, according to court testimony.

….

In 2017, Smith and his wife became licensed foster parents. The process consisted of them undergoing a background check, Smith and his wife testified, and filing the required paperwork. Neither of them received training for foster care from state or tribal officials.

….

Starting when Smith became a foster parent in 2017, and over the next three years, he molested three girls who were staying at his home. As of Smith’s sentencing, all three were still under the age of 18. The girls became his foster children because social workers couldn’t find any other households on the reservation safe enough for them to stay, Smith testified during his trial.

The federal indictment against Smith came in December 2022 following an investigation on the part of the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Within a month of pleading not guilty to multiple sex crimes, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council approved a measure to ban Smith from the reservation.

Smith’s trial spanned five days in December 2023. During which, three girls described their abuse in explicit detail. One of the survivors testified that when she was around 10 years old, she was lying on a couch at “Pastor Dean’s” to sleep when she got up to comfort another child who was having a nightmare. Both children got into bed with Smith, where he molested the 10-year-old.

Following closing arguments from federal prosecutors and attorneys representing Smith, the jury was deadlocked after several hours of deliberations. Judge Susan P. Watters, who presided over the trial, gave the deadlocked jury a recess that lasted from a Friday night to Monday morning. That Monday, the jury convicted Smith on counts of aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact by force and two counts of abusive sexual contact by force and of a child. He has remained in custody since.

“Even in the eyes of the verdict,” Assistant Federal Defender Evangelo Arvanetes said in court Wednesday, Smith maintained his innocence. Arvanetes, who represented Smith, argued for a five-year prison sentence. Smith loved and supported the Northern Cheyenne community Arvanetes said, as seen through his counseling and volunteer work on the reservation. Even a 20-year sentence in prison would likely mean a life sentence for the 67-year-old Smith, Arvanetes argued.

When given a chance to speak, Smith spent nearly 20 minutes listing his contributions to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, among them volunteering for the local fire department and providing counseling for men through his ministry. Smith also reiterated his innocence.

The question of Smith’s guilt, Judge Watters said before issuing her sentence, has already been answered. The jury heard from Smith and the three girls he abused, and ultimately determined their accounts were credible, she said.

“Your home was supposed to be a safe place for them,” Watters said. “They were extremely vulnerable girls. They were very young and they put their trust in you. And you violated that trust.”

Along with the 30-year sentence, Watters also required that Smith undergo sex offender treatment while in prison. Following his release, he will remain under federal supervision for the rest of his life.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Bruce Gerencser