Menu Close

Category: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Codie Malesker Sentenced to Jail Time for Mail Fraud

pastor codie malesker

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.

Last Friday, Codie Malesker, pastor of Faith Community Tabernacle (Our Church Is A Oneness Apostolic Church That Believes In The Plan Of Salvation As Outlined In Acts 2:38. Love, Laughter, Singing, Fellowship, Worship And Serving God!!!) in Hastings, Nebraska, was sentenced to five years of probation and 15 weekends in jail for committing mail fraud.

ABC-8 reports:

United States Attorney Jan Sharp announced the sentencing of 47-year-old Codie D. Malesker to five years of probation on Friday. United States District Judge John M. Gerrand sentenced Malesker to spend 15 weekends in jail and ordered him to pay $63,443.77 in restitution as part of the probation.

Malesker worked as an insurance agent with Midwest Regional Agency, operated Malesker Agency, LLC and served as a pastor and board member at Faith Community Tabernacle. Malesker was also a partner with Shaun Peck Family Construciton, LLC and managed finances for the company.

In this position, Malesker had access to the company’s bank account, checks and debit cards and an Intuit account. During a four-year period, Malesker issued policies to himself, his insurance agency and Faith Community Tabernacle. Malesker would then make fraudulent claims against those policies and would divert the proceeds to his accounts.

During the time period, Malesker caused an actual loss of $76,296.48 as a result of the fraud. According to a press release, Malesker filed a theft loss claim against his Continental Western Insurance Group reporting $31,648.77 of premium cash and personal property being stolen from Malesker Agency Office.

To support the claim, Malesker submitted fake receipts and bank records. The fraud worked and Continental Western Insurance Group mailed Malesker two claim checks totalling $31,648.77.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Gustavo Zamora Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

pastor gustavo zamora

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.

Gustavo Zamora, former pastor of Apostolic Assembly Church in Lindsay, California, was sentenced last Friday to twenty-five years in prison for six counts of lewd acts committed upon a child under the age of 14.

The Fresno Bee reports:

A pastor who worked in churches across the central San Joaquin Valley since the 1980s will spend 25 years to life in prison for molesting several girls. Gustavo Zamora, 69, was sentenced in Tulare County Superior Court on Friday for six counts of lewd acts committed upon a child under the age of 14. The crimes involved substantial sexual conduct, and each count is a felony considered as a strike offense, according to a statement Tuesday from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Zamora pleaded no contest to each count and admitted the crimes occurred against more than one victim, which adds a special allegation.

The crimes are nearly 40 years old. According to the DA’s office, Zamora was a pastor at the Apostolic Assembly Church in Lindsay between 1984 and 2000, when he assaulted five girls. They were 4 and 14 years old at the time of the sexual assaults. The incidents occurred at the church and other locations within Tulare County.

Zamora was first confronted with allegations of abuse in 2000, though the crime was not reported at the time and Zamora left the church and disappeared. A comprehensive investigation was started after multiple adult victims came forward with new allegations between 2004 and 2020. Zamora was arrested in May or 2020 in Lodi, where we was still working as a pastor. “While it may be difficult for some to process such news, especially regarding someone in a position of trust, the bravery of these victims to come forward cannot be understated,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward in the statement. “Their courage should be an example to anyone who has suffered such abuse.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Frank Jacobs Pleads Guilty to Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return and Wire Fraud

pastor frank jacobs

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.

Frank Jacobs, pastor of Rock Worship Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Quest Church, also in Charlotte, pleaded guilty last week to filing a fraudulent tax return and wire fraud.

The Charlotte Observer reports:

As a man of the cloth, Frank Jacobs was expected to render to God what was God’s. On Wednesday, however, it was Caesar’s turn, with the Charlotte pastor admitting in federal court that he failed to file income tax returns while also bilking a COVID-19 relief program out of a $52,000 loan with a phony application filed on behalf of one of his churches. Jacobs, 51, pleaded guilty to filing a fraudulent tax return and wire fraud in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cayer of Charlotte. Combined, the two charges carry a maximum penalty of more than 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine — though given his plea agreement, Jacobs’ penalty is expected to be much lighter. He will be sentenced at a later date.

….

In a statement released after Jacobs’ hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte said his criminal behavior occurred while he led two Charlotte churches. Plea documents say Jacobs led the Rock Worship Center Church from at least 2009 to 2018. The website of the southwest Charlotte congregation still lists him as pastor, crediting Jacobs with building the church from the ground up, and growing membership from the 11 who turned up for the first service to more than 1,500. In a 2009 story in the Observer, Jacobs — who at the time was doubling as a preacher and an executive with a pharmaceutical company — said his growing ministry had to balance its members’ spiritual and secular needs. ”The church should be a place that uplifts and encourages,” Jacobs said. “But it also should be a place that helps people find a job.” For much of his time at the Rock Worship pulpit, Jacobs apparently had trouble following the New Testament’s rendering advice.

The Christian Post adds:

Ever since he was a young boy, North Carolina Pastor Frank Jacobs Sr.’s mother noticed he had a taste for expensive things. She warned him that he would have to get a good education to afford them. So he studied hard and ultimately became a pastor, earning nearly $400,000 in one year. It apparently wasn’t enough.

Earlier this month, Dena J. King,  the U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced that Jacobs, 51, who led the Rock Worship Center Church in Charlotte from at least 2009 to 2018 and Quest Church in Charlotte from at least 2019 to 2021, pleaded guilty to tax and wire fraud.

Jacobs was accused of filing a false tax return and using fraudulent information to obtain a $52,000 loan from the federal government’s coronavirus relief program for small businesses, known as the Paycheck Protection Program.

On Sunday, during a Facebook Live broadcast from Quest Church, Jacobs said very little about his charges. But he told his congregation and supporters that the Bible remains his favorite book and apologized for embarrassing the church.

“It’s been a tough week, a very tough weeks for me and my family,” said the father of five, who is married to online talk show host Kimberly Jacobs.

“I first want to apologize to you … as church members and people who follow this ministry for being in a situation where you have to even see this, hear this, deal with this with your friends and colleagues. I’m very embarrassed by it, and I’m very sorry about it, and I apologize to you that you’re enduring this even as I endure it. I’m sorry to you because you had nothing to do with it.”

….

Documents cited by the U.S. Department of Justice show that for tax years 2009 through 2013 and 2015 through 2017, Jacobs failed to file timely U.S. individual income tax returns, Form 1040s, even after he received correspondence from the IRS in some of those years about the need to file and pay taxes.

He filed a return for 2014, claiming he only earned $66,370. But an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service suggests that he had $387,456.35 in income, according to a court document cited by The Charlotte Observer.

On April 22, 2020, Jacobs filed a fraudulent PPP loan application on behalf of Quest Church. He claimed the church paid five employees more than $135,500, but the church did not report any wages to the IRS for the corresponding calendar year and did not pay any withholding taxes.

Jacobs was released on bond following his court appearance last Tuesday and will be sentenced at a later date.

Filing a false tax return carries a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Jacobs’ church bio page states:

Frank Jacobs was born the sixth of 10 children to Supt. Lewis (deceased) and Mother Gladene Jacobs. Growing up in an industrial (steel) town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA, he learned the value of hard work. As a result, he secured his first job before becoming a teen and contributed to the household income.

As a youth, Frank’s mother made a comment that would be a pivotal point in his life. He requested that his parents purchase a pair of Nike’s he desired and upon denying the request, his mother simply said, “Boy, you like expensive things and you’ll need to go to college to be able to afford them”!  Frank decided that very moment to find a path to college and to finance it – somehow!

During the course of his investigation, Frank discovered that he’d essentially get a full scholarship if he was accepted into a military academy.  With that in mind, he focused his attention on the U.S. Air Force Academy.  Frank found the process to be competitive and grueling, in addition to learning that he had to be nominated by Congress for admission.  He persevered through the process and was eventually nominated by his U.S. Congressman for the Air Force Academy.  Over the course of a year, Frank received full scholarships from various universities as a student-athlete.  He ultimately accepted an invitation from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA and graduated in 4 years with a Bachelor’s Degree.

With determination in his DNA, Frank decided as a senior (Biology/Pre-Pharmacy major) that he would work in the pharmaceutical industry.  Amazingly, he was hired almost immediately, by the foremost pharmaceutical company in the world.  Frank, being as competitive as he was, told his girlfriend Kimberly (whom he married) that he would achieve the rank of VP of Sales by his 40th birthday.  18 years after his prophetic comment and continued advancement, Frank Jacobs, at the age of 40, was promoted to VP of Sales for a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company!

Frank made every attempt to avoid the call to ministry, but had a heart-felt commitment to helping others. Even in corporate America, with all of his success, he remained highly involved in ministry and every aspect of that ministry flourished as a result of his involvement.  This was most evident when he and his wife Kimberly started a teenage 501c3 youth program within the church. The program grew from 11 youth to 300 in only a few years, drawing children from all walks of life (including the Amish community) and forcing them to move their weekly meetings from the church to a high school auditorium.  From an idea, to the U.S. Department of Education funding its programs, this 501c3 received millions of dollars in federal grants for almost a decade.

Frank later earned his Master’s Degree, completed multiple ministerial training programs, was licensed as a Minister and was eventually ordained as and Elder in The Church of God in Christ.  In a life-changing event, Frank suffered the loss of his father in 1999 and succeeded him as Pastor at the request of the Bishop.  In only a few years, the ministry grew exponentially and the Bishop then requested that Frank lead the State church (Pennsylvania). Upon accepting the new appointment in 2001, the State church grew 10 times its size in just 3 years. Multiple ministerial training programs,[sic] Frank and his family moved to Charlotte, NC upon being promoted by the pharmaceutical company for which he worked. He then assumed his toughest assignment as he was led by God to start a ministry from the ground.  With no history in Charlotte, no previous relationships, congregation, nor building, he was driven to start The Rock Worship Center COGIC.  In 2005, he secured a building and opened the doors with just 11 people.  To date, over 1500 people have joined The Rock Worship Center and Superintendent Jacobs is resolute that the ROCK has only just begun to be effective in Charlotte.Superintendent Frank Jacobs has been married to Talk Show Host, Kimberly Jacobs, for the past 20 years.  This union has blessed them with 5 wonderful children.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Estevan Diaz Accused of Sexual Assault

estevan diaz

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

The Lewiston Tribune reports:

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.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Our Pastor Looked at Child Pornography and Took Inappropriate Pictures, but He’s a Really Nice Guy

father stephen pohl

I have known Stephen Pohl since the day he was born. I seriously doubt that these allegations will be proven. He said mass at my mothers [sic] passing and has been a friend to my family for over 50 years. It is painful because we are again seeing the pillory [sic] of another priest. Father Joe Hemmerly has been dogged by allegations all stemming from putting Lotion on the Sun Burn of a camper at the summer camp he ran. Many priests are unfairly targeted and I will be seriously surprised if these allegations pan out.

Father Stephen Pohl Supporter

Another day, another Catholic priest is arrested/charged/convicted of sexually molesting children. In August 2015, Stephen Pohl, 57, a pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky was arrested and charged with the possession of child pornography. According to the Courier Journal, Pohl “admitted to accessing the pornographic images of nude underage boys on computers at the church rectory and office between January and August 2015.” In January, Pohl admitted his guilt and signed a plea agreement that could result in him spending 33 months in a federal penitentiary. Pohl would also be required to register as a sex offender and face a “lifetime of supervision by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services.”

According to Courier-Journal report:

The federal case began after a 10-year-old St. Margaret Mary student told his mother that “Father Steve” singled him out at an after-school club to take a series of “weird” photos on his cell phone. The youth posed with his hands on his knees and legs spread apart, following the priest’s orders, according to the affidavit.

When the parents eventually confronted Pohl about the pictures, the affidavit details, they saw similar pictures of another child on the priest’s phone and reported it to law enforcement.

According to another Courier-Journal report, Louisville Metro Police Crimes Against Children Unit detective Dan Jackman is quoted as saying:

“One can clearly see up the child’s shorts and underwear,” Jackman wrote of one of the photos while another is “focused on the child’s genitals.”

You would think that St. Margaret Mary parishioners would be calling for Father Pohl’s head. Nope. According to WLKY, several Pohl supporters have written U.S. District Judge David Hale, asking him to be lenient when sentencing Pohl on March 29, 2016. After all, Pohl is “presently working with a psychologist. It has assisted me in understanding what is happening here.” What IS happening here? What is happening is that a Catholic priest is sexually attracted to boys and he got caught accessing internet child pornography. He also took photographs of young St. Margaret Mary boys. What more does anyone need to know? Pohl is a pedophile. Does anyone honestly think this was Pohl’s first time looking at child porn? Does anyone seriously think that he looked but didn’t touch? Not me.

While I don’t think Pohl should be locked away for life, I have serious reservations about any treatments that purport to “cure” pedophiles. If there is no cure, should men such as Pohl be permitted to roam free in public? Should they — after 20 hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers — be permitted to return to the church and have access to children? I hope not. Pohl should NEVER be permitted to be alone with children.

And what’s with those who write letters of support? I have noticed in other sex crime cases involving children/teenagers and clergymen that these predators always have supporters urging the courts to not be too hard on the convicted felon. Several years ago, Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, was convicted of a sex crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. I was astounded by all the letters that were written in his support. Schaap’s supporters commented on this blog, suggesting that Schaap was not to blame for his crimes. He was tired, had medical problems, the girl seduced him, said Schaap supporters.

Why is it that many Christians are unable to see people as they are? I suspect the main reason is cognitive dissonance. On Sundays, members see nice, loving, kind, and supportive Father Pohl or Pastor Schaap. During the week, these “nice” men are surfing child porn sites or shagging church teenagers. Every year, hundreds and hundreds of “nice” preachers are arrested, charged, and convicted of sex crimes. How can these things be? cry church members. On Sundays, these men preached sermons, blessed the communion elements, and glad-handed with parishioners after services. During the week they visited the sick, cared for widows, and took groceries to the hungry. Everything about their lives said these are “nice” men. Yet, in the shadows of their lives, these men committed crimes that Christians and atheists alike find reprehensible. The cognitive dissonance is so great that parishioners convince themselves that their sexual predator pastors and priests are misguided and weak — but still “nice” men. Yet, when asked if they would let their children or grandchildren spend an unsupervised weekend with these men, I suspect most parents and grandparents would emphatically say, NO!

I have long argued that the Christian notion of atonement and forgiveness gets in the way of people seeing sexual predators as they are — men who prey on trusting, defenseless children and teenagers. No amount of prayers, magic mumbo-jumbo at an old-fashioned altar, or confessions can erase the fact that these men committed heinous crimes. They are not “nice” men. They are sexual predators who deserve punishment for their crimes. Let the mothers of convicted sexual predators tell the courts how “nice” their sons are. That is what mothers do. Church members, however, should spend their time helping the victims and making sure such crimes NEVER happen again. Louisville Catholics should be demanding a full accounting from diocese officials. What did they know and when did they know it? Were they aware of Pohl’s perverse desires? If they were, what steps did they take to make sure he no longer had access to parish children? As is the case in many Catholic parishes, sex crimes by priests are buried with the hope that they will remain so until the statute of limitations runs out. Just what Jesus would do, right?

In 2016, Pohl was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jared Olivetti Accused of Not Reporting Sex Crimes

pastor jared olivetti

Jared, Olivetti, the pastor of Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Indiana has been put on temporary leaving pending an ecclesiastical investigation of his lack of urgency in responding to inappropriate behavior and sexual offenses by a boy at the church. As of today, Olivetti has not been charged with a crime (but he damn well should be). Immanuel Reformed is affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America — a Fundamentalist sect.

The Indianapolis Star reports:

Jared Olivetti, the West Lafayette pastor accused of mishandling the response to sexual abuse involving minors in his congregation, has been placed on leave effective immediately, pending the results of an ecclesiastical trial.

Olivetti and the 2020 elder board of the Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church were the subject of a December IndyStar investigation, which found they failed to act with urgency in responding to inappropriate behavior and sexual offenses by a boy at the church.

The boy is a relative of Olivetti. Rather than immediately recuse himself, IndyStar found Olivetti took advantage of his position as a leader to interfere with the church’s response.

….

Olivetti’s leave was announced to the denomination Thursday afternoon in a letter from the Synod Judicial Commission, a copy of which was obtained by IndyStar. The Synod, which is the national governing body in the Reformed Presbyterian denomination, is currently overseeing the investigation into Olivetti and his fellow elders.

The religious charges against Olivetti were accepted by the commission late last year, but the decision to place him on leave wasn’t announced until Thursday. As of Jan. 2, Olivetti was still preaching at Immanuel.

….

In accordance with the denomination’s Book of Discipline, Olivetti is required to “refrain from the exercise of office of teaching elder until the judicial process is complete,” the commission announced Thursday. 

“By imposing this requirement,” the letter says, “the SJC in no way pre-judges the case, but acknowledges the gravity of the accusations against Mr. Olivetti.”

….

Also facing ecclesiastical charges are elders Keith Magill, Ben Larson and David Carr. Charges have been dropped against former Immanuel elders Nate Pfeiffer and Zachary Blackwood, who resigned their posts following an investigation at the Presbytery level last year.

Church records indicate the sexual abuse  — which involved eight children from multiple families within the congregation — occurred on and off church property between spring 2019 and March 2020. Parents told IndyStar the children reported over- and under-clothes touching, oral-genital contact and penetration.

In addition to Olivetti’s clear conflict of interest, several people close to the situation told IndyStar the church’s elders chose to publicly minimize the nature of the incidents and protected their pastor over the congregation’s children.

In a July 2020 meeting, Olivetti told the pastor of a neighboring church he and his elder board were going to hide the allegations from higher authorities in the denomination.

“We’re not sending a report up,” Olivetti said during the conversation, an audio recording of which was obtained by IndyStar. “It’s not going to be in our regular session minutes. It’s going to be in a different (record).”

Last summer, the boy was found by a juvenile judge to be delinquent on what would be multiple felony counts of child molesting if he had been charged as an adult.

An ecclesiastical judicial commission, convened in late 2020, investigated the actions taken by Olivetti and the other elders and presented their findings to Presbytery in March 2021. IndyStar was provided with a copy of this report, which the Presbytery has not made public. Its findings included: 

Olivetti used “undue, excessive, or improper” influence to shape the church’s response. 

Conflicts of interest were “not understood, ignored — or worse veiled.”  

Church leaders committed a series of failures “to protect and provide the safety” of those in their charge. 

Leaders did not respond with urgency “fitting the gravity of the circumstances.”  

Elders failed to remove Olivetti from all discussions and decisions despite giving the impression he had been recused. 

Charges presented by those investigators were not accepted by the Presbytery. A second commission has since been convened — the Synod judicial commission — and accepted charges against Olivetti, Magill, Larson and Carr late last year. The exact wording and nature of those charges is unknown.

In preliminary meetings, the defense asked the Synod judicial commission to vacate all charges and nullify the investigation, according to the letter, a request the commission denied.

“The SJC determined that the denial of judicial process was unfair to all — accusers and accused alike,” the commission wrote. “A full, fair, and impartial opportunity to fully ‘address this matter’ is necessary to bring it to completion.”

The Indianapolis Star story ends with this statement:

Indiana law requires any adult who suspects a child is being abused or neglected to report those suspicions to law enforcement or the Indiana Department of Child Services.

And this is why Olivetti and his fellow elders should be arrested and charged with failure to report. Unfortunately, until prosecutors and law enforcement arrest and prosecute clerics who disobey reporting laws, this kind of behavior will continue. Based on the above news report, Olivetti broke the law and he should be made to pay for his crimes. It’s really that simple.

I don’t typically make long excerpts from news articles, but the following story in the Indianapolis Star gives important context to this story and why Olivetti should be prosecuted:

From the pulpit, Pastor Jared Olivetti issued a warning.

In his Nov. 8, 2020, sermon, he cautioned the congregation at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church against religious authorities who might cause them harm by abusing their power.  

“We are in danger, Lord, and we don’t always realize it; we don’t always wrestle with that,” Olivetti said. “So, we pray that you would protect us. 

“Lord, we pray that you would protect this particular congregation from me, from anything I might say or do that would detract from the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

Months before he delivered that sermon, it was revealed to leaders at the West Lafayette church that children from multiple families had been abused and harassed by another minor within the congregation, according to internal church documents obtained by IndyStar. Olivetti and his fellow elders kept the abuse from church members for more than four months, even as they learned of additional transgressions.

The perpetrator, a teenage boy, is a relative of the pastor. Rather than immediately recuse himself, IndyStar found Olivetti continued to shape the church’s response, taking advantage of his position as a leader to interfere with the investigation.  

Furthermore, several people close to the situation told IndyStar they believe the other elders chose to publicly minimize the abuse and protect their pastor over the congregation’s children. 

“They did not care about us,” the mother in one victim’s family told IndyStar. 

The incidents occurred on and off church property between spring 2019 and March 2020, church records indicate. Parents told IndyStar the children reported over- and under-clothes touching, oral-genital contact, and penetration.

Olivetti and the members of the 2020 Immanuel elder board did not comment for this article.  

In a July 2020 meeting, Olivetti told the pastor of a neighboring church he and his elder board – referred to as the session – were going to hide the allegations from higher authorities in the denomination. While session notes would typically be shared with the Presbytery each year, notes pertaining to these incidents, Olivetti said, would not be. 

“We’re not sending a report up,” Olivetti said during the conversation, an audio recording of which was obtained by IndyStar. “It’s not going to be in our regular session minutes. It’s going to be in a different (record).” 

The children at the church are not the only known victims.  

An order entered in a Tippecanoe County juvenile court shows investigators identified as many as 15, although it’s unclear whether all eight church victims are reflected in that total and how many are from outside the congregation. The documents also present an inconsistent timeline of their abuse, saying at various points that the abuse ended in March or April 2020 and in another that the acts continued into January 2021.

In July of this year, the boy was found by a juvenile judge to be delinquent on what would be multiple felony counts of child molesting and was remanded to a residential facility. 

….

Documents and recordings obtained by IndyStar demonstrate a lack of urgency in notifying the congregation of the abuse, a failure to consistently enforce child safety measures and undue influence exerted by Olivetti.  

In one case, the elders knowingly failed to inform a family the boy had confessed to intentionally touching their child below the waist without their consent, according to internal church records. The child’s family didn’t learn of the incident until seven months after the boy’s admission. 

IndyStar has spoken to multiple people close to the situation – including multiple victim families – and reviewed court documents, official church reports and letters written in support of Olivetti and the elders by current congregants. 

Joshua Bright, a former deacon who resigned and left the church last December, told IndyStar the Immanuel session’s actions have skewed perceptions of the harm done. 

“Probably the biggest impact is spinning out a narrative that portrays (Olivetti) as a person who has been harmed and abused by what’s gone on in the church,” Bright said, “as opposed to (being) the person who has caused it.” 

….

Allegations of abusive behavior were brought to Olivetti in October 2019, according to the judicial commission report, when the boy was seen reaching down the back of a child’s pants, and again when he propositioned and touched the chest of another child. In both of those instances, the investigators were told the families involved worked through their issues privately.  

In April 2020, another family reported abuse. According to the judicial commission report, they attempted to work through the situation with Olivetti while also reporting to the Indiana Department of Child Services. 

Months later, in August 2020, the boy told elders he had inappropriate interactions with children in at least two other families, including a child he had intentionally touched below the waist — above their clothing — without their consent. 

Multiple sources, including the judicial commission report, indicate DCS was informed of and, in some cases, substantiated the allegations against the boy. However, it’s unknown when those reports were made in relation to their discovery — Indiana law requires immediate reporting to law enforcement or Child Services. A DCS spokeswoman declined to comment when reached by IndyStar, citing the state’s confidentiality laws. 

Joshua Greiner, a pastor at Faith Church West who that spring was providing biblical counseling to one of the Immanuel victim families, first learned of Olivetti’s connection to the perpetrator in late July 2020, around the time he began to encourage the family to return to their home church for ongoing care.

Following that disclosure by the family he was counseling, Greiner and Olivetti met to discuss how to move forward. 

IndyStar has obtained and reviewed Greiner’srecording of their nearly 90-minute conversation. It was during that meeting that Olivetti said the Presbytery wouldn’t immediately intervene, that only some session members were fully aware of the situation, and they would be keeping off-book notes regarding the investigation. 

….

During this time, while the congregation was being assured proper measures were being taken, some of the victim families struggled to make sense of the situation.  

The April 2020 case that had been reported to DCS was found to be unsubstantiated, according to the judicial commission report, despite both families acknowledging to one another the abuse had occurred. 

During his July 2020 conversation with Greiner, the Faith pastor, Olivetti said the case had been unsubstantiated because DCS was “satisfied” with the safety precautions taken. This is not how DCS defines substantiation, which determines whether a preponderance of evidence exists to support the allegations. (A second case was opened in December, after additional information was reported to the agency, and was substantiated, according to the report.) 

But even questioning Olivetti’s actions would have been frowned upon within the congregation, the mother in one victim family told IndyStar. 

“He was this, like, know-all,” she said, “or this sense of God.” 

In November, when one victim family approached leadership with concerns that youth group parents had not been informed of the situation, the session said they didn’t believe it was necessary to do so. 

“We simply cannot protect everybody from every conceivable physical danger,” they wrote, according to the judicial commission report. “If we are to believe the statistics, it is likely there are unknown abusers present at most church activities. The way to protect against these dangers is simply to be vigilant and teach kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate.” 

Also that month, according to the report, a victim family reached out to the elders to ensure a family that had recently left the church had been informed of the situation.

“I have not talked with them yet,” Pfeiffer told Blackwood in a Slack message, according to the report. “I’m still not clear why they’re pushing that so much. I’ll do it at some point.” 

The mother in one victim family said her family chose to leave the church after it was clear Olivetti and the elders were protecting themselves instead of the children. 

“When we go to church, we are supposed to feel safe,” she said, “and we didn’t feel safe anymore.” 

However, not all families involved felt the session acted inappropriately. The father in one family told IndyStar he believes the elders acted in good faith.

“Our family affirms the care and love and shepherding of our elders,” he wrote to IndyStar in an email. “We were treated with tenderness, care, compassion, love and respect.”

Furthermore, he believes the judicial commission report was not representative of his family’s experience and that their story is “being used to support a narrative that (they) do not agree with.”

“We grieve the events that occurred among minors in our church yet this sadness has been compounded by the accusations on the elders,” he wrote. He continued: “The people bringing these allegations have hijacked our story and are using it in ways that we don’t approve of and have not given consent to.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Youth Pastor Timothy Wells Accused of Sexually Assaulting a Child

youth pastor timothy wells

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.

Timothy Wells, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas, stands accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

KWTX-10 reports:

A former minister of a Wylie church was arrested on Friday, Jan 7 on a charge of sexually assaulting a child after accusations surfaced last month.

On Dec 12, 2021, a staff member of the First Baptist Church of Wylie contacted the Collin County Sheriff’s Office to report another staff member for alleged sexual assault.

During their investigation, the Sheriff’s Office investigators identified a 15-year-old girl who disclosed that she had been inappropriately touched by First Baptist Church of Wylie Junior High Minister Timothy Wells.

….

Wells had been an employee of the church since January 2019. He was immediately placed on leave and his employment was later terminated.

Sheriff’s Office investigators obtained a warrant for Timothy Wells’ arrest, charging him with indecency with a child by sexual contact, a second-degree felony. Wells turned himself into the Collin County Detention Facility where he was booked and is being held in lieu of a $25,000 bond.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

The sheriff’s office said the First Baptist Church of Wylie, where Wells had worked as a junior high minister since January 2019, reported the allegation of sexual assault on Dec. 12.

The sheriff’s department said in a written statement that a 15-year-old girl told investigators that Wells touched her inappropriately off church property. The sheriff’s department declined to provide further details, including whether the girl knew Wells through church or the alleged incident was at an event affiliated with the church.

Authorities said the church immediately suspended Wells from his position and later fired him. The church said in a statement that it cooperated with authorities throughout their investigation but did not comment further about the investigation.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Conrad Estrada Valdez Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

pastor conrad estrada valdez

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, Conrad Estrada Valdez, pastor of Restoration Outreach Christian Church in Houston, Texas, was accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Yesterday, Valdez pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

ABC-13 reports:

A Houston-area pastor has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the sexual assault of a child.

Conrad Estrada Valdez , 61, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the charge of sexual assault of a child between the ages of 14 and 17.

Valdez was a pastor at The Restoration Outreach Christian Church, according to Harris County sheriff’s deputies.

In 2019, a then-30-year-old woman disclosed to authorities that she was sexually abused by Valdez when she was 15 years old. She described Valdez as a longtime family friend and her pastor/mentor at the time.

She told deputies that she started visiting the pastor for counseling after experiencing a previous sexual assault.

She said what started as Valdez inappropriately touching her later progressed into sexual intercourse.The woman said she didn’t come forward sooner because Valdez had threatened to expose the situation to her family.

She told deputies she eventually came forward after watching a documentary on survivors of sexual abuse.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Douglas Hammond Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $285,000

pastor douglas hammond

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.

Douglas Hammond, pastor of Olivet Assembly of God Church in Olivet, Michigan, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to embezzling $285,000 from his church.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

An Olivet pastor has pleaded guilty to embezzling $285,000 from his church, according to prosecutors. 

Douglas Hammond pleaded guilty as charged Friday to one count of embezzlement over $100,000, said Eaton County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Anderson. 

Hammond stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Olivet Assembly of God Church when he was a pastor there, according to court records. The embezzlement is believed to have taken place over nearly six years, from January 2014 through November 2019, Anderson said in an email.

Hammond’s attorney, David Carter, said Hammond is not likely to be able to pay back the restitution he will owe because he is living at poverty level at the moment. 

Hammond was scheduled to go to trial earlier this year, but it was canceled and he instead pleaded guilty two months later. Carter said this is because Hammond “wanted to do what was right.” 

Carter declined to comment on why Hammond stole money from the church or what he did with the money. He said he did not have Hammond’s permission to speak about that. Carter did say, however, there were “a lot of special circumstances” with the case.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser