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Category: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Todd Spain, Jr. Accused of Assaulting His Wife

todd spain jr

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

In July 2019, Todd Spain, Jr, a youth pastor at Crossroads Church in Pelham, New Hampshire, was accused of coaxing his wife to ledge while they were out hiking and hitting her over the head with a rock. Allegedly, the couple had been arguing over Spain’s admission of an affair.

The Eagle-Tribune reported at the time:

Pelham resident Todd Spain Jr., 26, was indicted in Carroll County Superior Court last month for second-degree assault, according to a court clerk. He is also charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence simple assault, the clerk said.

….

A probable cause affidavit written by Carroll County Sheriff’s Detective Brian King says the assault took place Saturday, July 6.

King said in his report that Spain’s wife, Molly Spain, called police for help from the Boulder Loop Trail in Albany, New Hampshire, at about 3 p.m. She told police that she would be running down the mountain to meet emergency responders.

“She stated that she and Todd got into an argument after he admitted to having an affair,” King’s report states. “When she turned to leave the mountain, she was struck in the back of the head with a rock. She said that she fell to the ground, and that Todd fell on top of her.”

According to the affidavit, “She said that she had to kick and punch him to get him off of her. She suffered apparent minor injuries. She was transported to Memorial Hospital in Conway, New Hampshire.”

At the hospital, she told police she was “in fear of her life,” according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states Spain kept insisting that his wife go with him to the edge of one of the cliffs along the trail.

According to the affidavit, the victim said, “I thought he was going to push me off the edge and kill me.”

She also told police Spain kept putting his arm around her neck and asking what she would do if he choked her, but he never actually did.

Spain’s suggestion to go on a hike was odd from the get-go, according to the affidavit.

“Todd is not active, and has never wanted to hike or do anything outside in the past,” King reported the wife saying.

The victim was granted an emergency restraining order, according to the document.

King wrote that Spain admitted to police that he hit his wife in the head with the rock and gave written and audio statements to that effect.

Spain’s father, Todd, Sr is the pastor of Crossroads Church. (Nepotism is common in Evangelical churches.) After his arrest, Todd, Jr. resigned or was fired from his position at the church. His father denies that there is any connection between his son’s alleged crime and employment termination.

Yesterday, the Eagle-Tribune reported:

Todd Spain Jr., a former youth minister at Crossroads Church indicted for assaulting his wife, avoided a jury trial scheduled to start last week as his attorney and a prosecutor explore settlement options.

Deputy Carroll County Attorney Steven Briden filed paperwork on Feb. 19, the day before trial was set to begin, to inform a judge that both parties would like to participate in a settlement conference.

Briden explained that settlement conferences are frequently “a useful tool in trying to find a resolution to a case without having to put everyone through the difficulties of a trial.”

Briden, Spain Jr. and his attorney Kirsten Wilson will meet with retired Judge Peter Fauver, who will evaluate the case and try to see if a plea resolution can be found without going to trial.

They are scheduled to meet March 4, according to court documents. If a decision is not made that day, a trial will begin soon after.

After Spain, Jr. was arrested, former leaders at Crossroads accused him of sending their daughter sexually explicit texts in 2013.

The Eagle-Tribune reported at the time:

News of the arrest incited memories of a 2013 situation involving Spain Jr., who was 19 at the time, and a 14-year-old girl who regularly attended a Crossroads youth group.

According to Michele and Ken Woonton, the girl’s parents, their daughter received sexual text messages from Spain Jr. when she was a minor. She responded, they said, but quickly became uncomfortable and brought the messages to the attention of church staff.

The Woontons said they were told by Spain Sr. that his son’s behavior was the result of a pornography addiction. He was sent to a family member’s house in the South “to heal” for several weeks, the family recalls.

The couple said they were disturbed when Spain Jr. came home to Pelham and his dad, the pastor, had the idea to appoint his son to lead middle and high school-aged kids in the youth ministry.

The Woontons went to police about the text messages, they said, but were told no crime had been committed.

At the family’s request, police would have gone to talk to Spain Jr., they said. But the family declined.

Pelham police Chief Joseph Roark said there is no record of the call and there are no other complaints involving Spain Jr.

Two other couples in leadership positions at the time have confirmed the Woonton’s account of what happened six years ago, including how the Spain family kept it concealed from the general church population and went against all of their wishes to keep Spain Jr. away from kids.

Several attempts to contact the Spains or anyone at Crossroads Church have been unsuccessful.

“Our coming forward is about transparency,” Ken Woonton said. “This is not about a church. This is not about religion. It’s about leadership. There are going to be members of that congregation that want to defend it. But we want to empower them to question their leadership about whether they’re protecting their children.”

At the time of the February 2013 incident with his daughter, Ken Woonton was a church trustee. His family was involved at Crossroads since its inception in 2001.

“When Todd Jr. came home and his father approached my husband about making him a youth leader, that was the beginning of the end for us,” said Michelle Woonton. “It was insane.”

Spain, Jr graduated in 2011 from nearby Blackhawk Christian School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His Facebook page lists him taking college classes at Boston Baptist College, Baptist Bible College, and Louisiana Baptist University — all Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institutions.

On September 11, 2019, Crossroads Church released the following statement:

There was an article in a local paper about a youth minister of this church. We cannot comment on the personal and legal issues involving Todd Spain Jr. and his wife. We can state that Todd Spain Jr. is no longer employed by the church for reasons other than the legal charges mentioned in the article. His employment ended on Monday July 8th. Unfortunately, we cannot provide details of confidential employment issues. Crossroads remains committed to providing spiritual guidance to all of its members and we pray for the wellness of those involved in this situation.

This is the first and last statement released by the church.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Logan Wesley III Accused of Sex Crimes

pastor logan wesley iii

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.

Logan Wesley III, an Evangelical pastor in Texarkana, Texas, was arrested in November 2019 on a charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14.  The Texarkana Gazette reported at the time:

Logan Wesley III was taken into custody last month by Texarkana, Texas, police on a charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14. The offense is punishable by 25 to 99 years or life in prison and there is no parole from any sentence imposed.

Wesley, 56, allegedly began molesting the girl when she was 12 and continued to sexually abuse her for many years. The alleged victim, who is now 38, reported the alleged abuse to investigators in mid-November. The alleged victim reported that she was not believed when she made outcries about the abuse as a child because of Wesley’s status as a pastor.

The woman reported that she provided a recording of a phone call between her and Wesley to investigators. Wesley allegedly confessed to and apologized for the abuse on the call.

After his arrest, Wesley III was released on a $100,000 bond. Today, the good pastor found himself in court again facing additional sexual assault charges. The Texarkana Gazette reports:

Logan Wesley III, 56, was arrested in November on a single felony charge involving one alleged victim. Earlier this month, a Bowie County grand jury returned three indictments involving three different girls which list a total of 18 felony counts.

Following his arrest in November, Logan posted a $100,000 bond. Bail on Wesley’s current charges totals $1.25 million.

….

At a hearing Monday morning, Texarkana lawyer Josh Potter asked 202nd District Judge John Tidwell to lower the total to $100,000 and release Wesley on his existing bond.

“What I’ve decided to do, I’m going to leave the bonds where they are but I’m not going to make you wait for trial until Aug. 24,” Tidwell said. “I’m going to move your trial up to May 4.”

First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp said she has identified 13 alleged victims of sexual abuse by Wesley “on both sides of the state line” whom she might call as witnesses at Wesley’s trial in May. Crisp said the 13 alleged victims include the three named in the Bowie County indictments and 10 others who allege they suffered sexual abuse by Wesley in other jurisdictions.

The court must conduct hearings outside the presence of the jury regarding any alleged victim she wishes to call as a witness in a trial concerning a different alleged victim. The court will determine if the potential testimony is admissible before it can be heard by a jury. Because of the number of such alleged victim witnesses in Wesley’s case, Crisp suggested scheduling those hearings in advance of the trial.

Wesley allegedly used his status as pastor of a Texarkana, Ark., church to sexually abuse young girls.

Wesley is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14, three counts of sexual assault of a child under 17 and one count of indecency with a child by sexual contact involving a single alleged victim.

Charges involving a second alleged victim include two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 and five counts of sexual assault of a child under 17. Charges involving a third alleged victim include a single count of sexual assault of a child under 17 and three counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

Wesley faces five to 99 years or life in prison if found guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14. Sexual assault of a child under 17 and indecency with a child by sexual contact are both punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

Wesley’s Twitter account describes him this way:

Pastor, Father, Husband and Friend, Chosen to Empower men and women with the uncompromising Word of God…….If God can’t do it, IT CAN’T BE DONE!!

Wesley neglected to add “alleged pedophile.” Based on Wesley’s statement about God, I assume we can conclude that God was behind his sexual molestation of numerous girls.

Woman’s Civil Lawsuit Alleges IFB Preacher David Hyles Raped Her When She was a Teen

david-hyles-new-man

Joy Ryder, a former member of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, has filed a civil lawsuit against the church, Hyles-Anderson College, and David Hyles, the son of the late Jack Hyles.

NWI-Times reports:

An Indiana woman is suing the First Baptist Church of Hammond, alleging its youth minister repeatedly raped her as a teen girl in the late 1970s.

Joy Ryder, who now runs a support group for sex abuse victims, said she is trying to win justice not only for herself, but others similarly abused by the fundamentalist movement’s clergy over the decades.

She alleges officials of the church and Hyles-Anderson College put her at the mercy of David Hyles, son of the church’s charismatic leader, the late Jack Hyles.

She said once her family accused David Hyles of sexual abuse, the church covered up his wrongdoings.

Ryder, who spoke this week with The Times and gave permission to identify her by name, said the federal lawsuit is the only way left to hold church officials publicly accountable.

“You couldn’t go up against their authority. (David Hyles) told me that nobody would believe me,” she said.

She said the statute of limitations has passed on criminal charges, and the church hierarchy has repeatedly refused to respond to her accusations.

Her attorney, Robert Montgomery, filed a civil suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

It alleges David Hyles, Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville and the First Baptist Church of Hammond violated state and local law as defined by the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute.

Neither David Hyles, who now is affiliated with a different church out of state, nor a spokesperson for the First Baptist Church of Hammond, were immediately available for comment Tuesday.

….

In the case surrounding the recent lawsuit, Ryder said her parents were church members and employees when she was being raped by David Hyles, then the church’s youth minister and son of Jack Hyles.

She attended Hammond Baptist Schools and Hyles-Anderson College during the 1970s and early 1980s.

She said David Hyles was 25, and she was 14 when he began to pull her aside from church youth groups to flatter her, select her as a member of the church’s traveling music group and gain her trust.

The suit alleges Ryder became concerned about David Hyles stalking her with repeated calls to talk and be with him. It alleges that when this was brought to Jack Hyles’ attention, he responded that Ryder “wasn’t special” and his son “did that with everyone.”

Ryder said she was a high school sophomore when David Hyles first assaulted her in his office at the church’s youth ministry building in downtown Hammond.

The suit alleges David Hyles “pinned her to the floor in his office and raped her.”

The suit alleges: “Multiple other girls accused (David) Hyles of sexual misconduct, similarly, to no avail.”

The suit alleges David Hyles sexually abused Ryder more than 50 times over two years inside church buildings as well as other locations during her travels with the church music group.

The suit also alleges David Hyles once ordered her to his home when his wife was out of town and threatened to reveal her to the congregation as a “slut” and have her parents fired from their church employment.

The suit alleges that once she arrived at his house, he forced her to perform oral sex and later laughed, “Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?”
It alleges David Hyles secretly put drugs or alcohol in her food and drink to make her more compliant.

The suit alleges Ryder finally informed her parents of the rapes after two years and brought her father with her to a meeting with David Hyles to confront him.

It alleges that after their meeting, her father personally informed Jack Hyles of the son’s wrongdoing.

It alleges the church responded by giving her father a lucrative job at Hyles-Anderson college “in exchange for his silence and agreement not to take the allegations to law enforcement.”

The lawsuit also alleges the church then moved David Hyles to a church in Texas, where his father had previously been a pastor.
The suit alleges child rape and sexual abuse by all church clergy, including those of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, “are widely known” and have led to numerous later investigations, trials and convictions.

You can read the entire court filing here.

I have written numerous articles about David Hyles:

Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome

UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored

David Hyles Says “My Bad, Jesus”

Is All Forgiven for David Hyles?

Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping “Fallen” Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

The David Hyles Saga

I have also written a number of stories about his father, Jack Hyles:

The Legacy of Jack Hyles

Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters

The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles

1991 Current Affairs Report: Jack Hyles Stole My Wife

Jack Hyles Tells Unsubmissive Woman to Kill Herself

News Stories About IFB Preachers Jack and David Hyles

My “prayer” is that this lawsuit will be the first of many.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Baptist Church Treasurer Taisha Smith-DeJoseph Accused of Embezzling Over $500,000

taisha smith dejoseph

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.

Taisha Smith-DeJoseph, treasurer for St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Florence, New Jersey, stands accused of embezzling over $500,000 from the church.

CNN reports:

Taisha D. Smith-DeJoseph, 43, was responsible for overseeing the church’s finances and opened electronic bank accounts for St. Paul Baptist Church and used the money for personal expenses, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

….
Over the course of five years, ending in March 2019, Smith-DeJoseph allegedly used the stolen money to pay her car loans, rent, credit card expenses, cable bill, cell phone bills, and to make hundreds of online purchases and pay for her wedding venue, a police investigation determined.

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The church’s board of trustees suspected a theft around June 2019 and approached authorities with their suspicions, which prompted an investigation, Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, told CNN.

Smith-DeJoseph allegedly made purchases totaling $266,595.65 through PayPal, according to Bewley, and purchases of $22,812.69 on Amazon.
“People put their hard-earned money in the church and really expected for it to be taken care of,” the Rev. Fred Jackson told CNN affiliate KYW. “It’s very hurtful for the entire congregation and we’ve been going through it for several months now, and what else can I say? It was devastating.”

Smith-DeJoseph also allegedly issued payroll and supply reimbursement checks to herself from the church’s bank accounts and fabricated monthly statements to hide the church’s true financial state, according to a probable cause statement from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office.

The woman was charged with multiple crimes including theft by deception, computer criminal activity and failure to pay income tax.
A man who said he is Smith-DeJoseph’s brother told CNN affiliate KYW that he wasn’t aware of the allegations. “I know my sister and she would never do no (expletive) like that,” he said. The man was not named.

The Burlington County Prosecutor’s office said in an attempt to hide the scheme, Smith-DeJoseph didn’t file income tax returns for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2017, she allegedly filed a fraudulent tax return.

I wish people would stop saying that they know so-and-so so well that they KNOW the accused person could never do such a thing. None of us know someone so well that we can speak infallibly about his behavior. I highly doubt that my wife is a serial killer. Can I know for certain that Polly is not a serial killer? 🙂 Of course not.  All any of us can do is trust people, and sometimes the people we trust the most do unspeakable things. One need only read the stories in the Black Collar Crime Series to see that supposedly “good” people do awful things.

Black Collar Crime: Convicted Sex Offender Donald Foose Found Pastoring Southern Baptist Church

pastor donald foose

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 2000, Donald Foose, a principal of a Christian school, was convicted of sexually molesting a teenage girl. He was sentenced to two years in prison. USA Today reports:

The court records from Foose’s criminal case, obtained by USA TODAY, detail the sexual abuse that led to his conviction and the loss of his teaching license. Foose’s accuser, who is now an adult, did not respond to interview requests for this story.

In 1999, according to the records, she told Pennsylvania state police that Foose had repeatedly fondled her breasts, often over her clothing and twice underneath them. She said he once told her he wanted to see “what you got,” before groping beneath her shirt. Foose had once rubbed his genitals against hers when they were both fully clothed, she also told the police. When he asked to see her breasts, she refused.

A state trooper documented Foose’s limited response: Whatever his accuser alleged was true, he said. “He advised that he did put his hand under her clothing touching her breast,” the trooper wrote.

Police charged Foose with corruption of minors and indecent assault, both misdemeanors. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in March 2000 to a maximum of two years in county prison and sex offender counseling. He served nine months and was released in December of that year on parole. He has no other known convictions.

In 2001, Foose and his wife began attending Oakwood Baptist Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. In 2006, the church’s pastor, Bob Conrad, asked Foose to join him in the ministry. USA Today reports:

Conrad, the head pastor whose father had preached at Oakwood for three decades before him, was initially unaware that Foose had been a longtime minister and a principal about 15 miles away at Harrisburg Christian School. When Conrad learned that he had a fellow preacher in his congregation, he wondered whether God had given Oakwood a gift. So in 2006, he asked Foose to join him in ministry.

Conrad, in an interview, said Foose paused at the suggestion.

“He said, ‘I have something in my past. I can’t pass a background check,’” Conrad recalled.

Foose told him that he had been falsely accused of molesting a teenage girl but decided he would not fight the charges to spare his family the pain of a trial, Conrad said.

In the letter he wrote after leaving Oakwood, Conrad said Foose’s secret had been shared under pastor-member confidentiality, so he did not tell the congregation before it voted to approve Foose’s move to leadership. The two men also had agreed, he said, that Foose would not become involved with Oakwood’s school.

….

Foose resigned from Oakwood in May 2018. Soon after, the beloved pastor who had left Oakwood months before, Bob Conrad, acknowledged in a five-page letter to his former church that he and other leaders had known Foose could not pass a background check. Foose claimed to have been falsely accused, Conrad wrote, and church leaders took him at his word, failing to prevent him from having access to children even as school employees complained about his overly familiar behavior with the students.

“I pray,” Conrad wrote, “that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me for my lack in leadership and judgment.”

….

On Foose’s final Sunday at Oakwood, he confessed to his congregation: He had been accused of abuse by a teenage girl, convicted and jailed. He told them he had touched her inappropriately above the waist, according to several people in attendance who added that they were left with the impression it had been a single incident.

After Conrad left the church, Foose became its pastor. Conrad, along with other leaders in the church knew about Foose’s past crime and conviction, but kept silent. Foose said he was innocent, so he must have been, right? As far as Conrad’s plea for forgiveness, I hope the folks at Oakwood Baptist will tell him to fuck off. I also hope the church has, by now, excommunicated every church leader who knew about Foose’s past and did nothing about it. Such cowardly behavior is inexcusable.

The USA Today story adds:

Days later, Conrad sent his letter to Oakwood’s board of deacons, unburdening himself with the same words: please forgive me, I need to ask for forgiveness, I pray that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me.

The letter’s contents were explosive. Staff at the school had complained about Foose, a red flag every few weeks during one period, Conrad wrote. Foose hugged the children during class time, especially the little girls, and let them climb on his lap; pushed them on the swings by their bottoms, not the metal chains or their backs; and lifted kids onto his knee so their legs straddled his.

Conrad wrote that he warned Foose to keep his distance but didn’t share the complaints with the board of deacons, thinking he could manage on his own.

He wrote that Foose had pushed two women – a cook, and the school’s director – out of jobs at the school after they complained about his behavior. The director had grown so concerned that she had Foose work in a classroom where she could keep an eye on him, according to Conrad.

….

Conrad mentioned a third woman who worked at the school as a classroom aide. Her parents complained to the church about Foose’s behavior with their daughter, who has an intellectual disability. Conrad wrote that it was a “common occurrence for (Foose) to hug her in the pastor office while no one else was there” and that Foose once hugged her from behind and rested his head on her shoulder.

Conrad wrote that he had also seen Foose hug her.

In an interview, Conrad said Karlsen and Foose had by that time largely taken over leadership of the church, overruling him on his concerns. He said he argued that the congregation should be told about the parents’ complaint. Instead, he said, at a meeting with Conrad, Foose, Karlsen, and the woman’s father, the situation was explained as a misunderstanding and smoothed over.

Karlsen, in an email, denied that Foose ever hugged the woman. He said he spoke to the parents because Conrad “could not handle confrontation.”

Conrad wrote that by 2017, he had come to recognize that what was happening at Oakwood was wrong. But the other leaders, he said, took Foose’s side. Conrad said he was called a bully, forced to take a sabbatical from preaching and ordered to seek counseling. Matthew 18, the scripture that prescribes how to reconcile with someone who has wronged you, was pushed in his face. But he saw no path to making peace.

So Conrad left, only revealing the truth behind his decision in a letter months later.

“It was hard to write,” Conrad said, after sliding into the booth at a pizza shop near his new church in Harrisburg. “I was hoping that if I said, ‘These are things that I did wrong,’ other people would. But that never happened.”

Still think Donald Foose is an innocent man? I suspect there are still people at Oakwood Baptist who think Foose is just a good man wrongly accused (and convicted) of criminal and inappropriate behavior. These kinds of stories sicken me. Here’s a sex offender hiding in plain sight, but because he looks and acts like a “nice” Christian man who really, really, really loves Jesus, the church ignores not only his criminal past but also current allegations of inappropriate behavior.

After his resignation from Oakwood in 2018, Foose was a guest preacher at Carlisle Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Ed Roman, pastor.  USA Today reports:

The same month that Higgins closed his investigation, Foose preached in front of the congregation at Carlisle Baptist Church, not 20 miles from Oakwood. Megan posted about her concerns on Facebook and heard from a mother at Carlisle who confirmed the congregation was unaware of Foose’s record before he took the pulpit.

The mother, Mary Weigel, said the senior pastor at Carlisle later told her that he had known about Foose’s conviction when he invited him to fill in that Sunday but did not think he posed a danger. Weigel has since left the church.

“I’m angry. I’m so angry,” Weigel said. “That puts my children in a position of trusting someone that could potentially groom them and hurt them. And I would have never guessed. I would have never known.”

Ed Roman, Carlisle Baptist Church’s senior pastor, said he let Foose preach because he believes in redemption. “But we also take seriously our responsibility to protect our children and our families,” he said. “So over the years Carlisle Baptist has been very diligent in implementing safeguards that protect families and children so they can worship safely.”

“I wish I would have handled things better,” Roman added. “I did not fully consider how it would affect other people. I didn’t.”

In September, Foose preached again, in Virginia, according to a video briefly posted on the Facebook page of Fredericksburg International Christian Church. The pastor there said he was unaware of Foose’s record when he invited him to the pulpit.

I love Pastor Roman’s statement that he and his church take the protection of families and children seriously. Yet, the good pastor allowed to Foose to preach for him? Why? Because Roman believes in “redemption.”

Worse yet, both the Oakwood and Carlisle churches are part of the same Southern Baptist Association. Its director, Larry Theisen, knew of Foose’s past sex crime conviction and the allegations of inappropriate behavior. Instead of protecting the members of the Oakwood and Carlisle churches, Theisen took the “neutral” route and remained silent.  USA Today reports:

The fact that Foose preached at Carlisle Baptist was all the more stunning to the Benningers because the congregation is a member of the Keystone Baptist Association, a network of central Pennsylvania churches that includes Oakwood. Larry Theisen, then the association’s director of missions, knew that Foose’s secret had torn Oakwood apart because he had served as interim pastor after the last of Oakwood’s leaders resigned.

Theisen retired in December after 24 years in the job. Before leaving, he served on a national committee for SBC association leaders that drafted guidelines for preventing sexual abuse of minors in the church.

In an interview, Theisen said he tried to remain neutral at Oakwood but that it was a challenge because Foose is a friend.

Theisen said he learned of Foose’s conviction about 10 years ago from one of Oakwood’s pastors and did not ask for more details beyond what Foose later told him – that he had inappropriately touched a teen girl above the waist. Theisen said he has never been interested in reading through the court records to fully understand what had occurred.

“Everything that goes into our mind affects our mind. … I don’t like to fill my mind with things that are unnecessary,” Theisen said.

Theisen said it wasn’t his place to question Oakwood’s decision to make Foose pastor, because of the autonomy of Southern Baptist churches. He equated it to a congregation deciding whether to accept as pastor a man who had been divorced.

“I’ve had, oh, just about everything you can name over the 45 years of ministry I’ve had to deal with,” he said. “And so my question would simply be, is this a sin that’s basically a Scarlet Letter that they would never find redemption in?”

Foose and Theisen were “friends,” so Theisen kept his mouth shut. Theisen nauseatingly justifies Foose’s crime when he says, “And so my question would simply be, is this a sin that’s basically a Scarlet Letter that they would never find redemption in?”  Sorry, Pastor Theisen, but people who molest children — and do you really think Foose was one and done? — should never, ever be given access to children. And they sure as hell shouldn’t be pastors or guest preachers. Come on, man, most of the atheists I know have better morals and ethics than the justifiers of Foose’s behavior.

Please take the time to read the entire USA Today story. Its description of Foose’s preaching is that of a man with something to hide.

Donald Foose’s church bio page says this about him:

Pastor Donald R. Foose was born in Harrisburg, PA.  His hometown is Marysville, Perry County, Pennsylvania.  He is the third oldest of eight children.  He was greatly influenced by godly grandparents who lived in the house next door and was always seen travelling with and helping his grandfather.  Pastor Don was made alive in Christ at the age of eight when God called him by grace and granted him repentance and faith while attending a summer church camp. God has been faithful in preparing and sustaining him for service in his Kingdom and Church since 1958.  He was given a strong Christian foundation by his family and church.

By God’s grace, Pastor Don has been used in starting and leading Christian schools as well as serving as pastor in several churches in Ohio and Pennsylvania.   His education includes a B. S.  in Education from Shippensburg University, a Masters in Christian Education from Pensacola Christian College, and pastoral studies from Harrisburg School of the Bible.

Pastor Don has served in ministry for over 40 years.  God has been gracious in counting him faithful to proclaim His marvelous grace.  His passion is to preach and teach the word of God so that the church will grow in love, knowledge, and service of God, while at the same time grow in love for others.  Pastor Don’s goal is to glorify God in all things at Oakwood Baptist Church.  He shares preaching time with the other pastors/elders of Oakwood.  He also teaches small group Bible studies in the homes of church members.  Pastor Don is also active in training pastors and church leaders in Ecuador, the Philippines, and in sister churches in the Keystone Baptist Association.  He is chairman of the elders/pastors of Oakwood Baptist Church. He has served as a pastor at Oakwood since 2006.

Pastor Don has been married to Terry Ann Foose since 1972 and has five grown children and ten grandchildren.  He resides in Silver Spring Township. He is a serious baseball fan who has followed the New York Yankee since his childhood days of admiring Mickey Mantle.  He is also an avid golfer who plays every week in the warm months of the year.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Michael Sperou Found Guilty a Second Time

michael sperou

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 2015, Michael Sperou, pastor of North Clackamas Bible Community (previously named Southeast Bible Church) in Happy Valley, Oregon, was convicted on three counts of first-degree sexual penetration of a child under twelve and sentenced to twenty years in prison. In 2019, the Oregon Supreme Court:

ordered a new trial for Sperou after concluding that witnesses had improperly referred to the accuser as a victim. The court found that the reference may have undermined Sperou’s presumption of innocence and affected his right to a fair trial.

Last Friday, Sperou was convicted a second time.

Fox-12 reports:

Michael Sperou was convicted by a jury Friday on two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration.

The victim was under the age of 12 when the assaults occurred on two separate occasions between 1993 and 1996, according to investigators.

….

The district attorney’s office states the members gathered and lived among rental homes they shared and, as part of its evidence presentation, the state reported Sperou had a sexual interest in children; that he allowed minors to spend time with him in his bed; that he provided alcohol to minors; that he emotionally and financially manipulated church members; that he abused alcohol; and controlled nearly every aspect of church members lives, including how they raised their children.

Two other women testified in court that Sperou had sexually assaulted them while they were children in the church, but prosecutors said the statute of limitation has passed in those cases.

Sperou’s congregants still believe he is an innocent man. Of course, they do. (News story from Sperou’s first trial reveals the steadfast devotion of his fellow church members.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Bramwell Retana Accused of Numerous Sex Crimes

bramwell retana

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.

Bramwell Retana, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Oasis De Paz in Las Vegas, Nevada, was arrested on December 20, 2019 on sexual abuse charges. Since then, Retana has been charged with forty felony counts, including lewdness with a child younger than fourteen, first-degree kidnapping, child abuse and luring a child with a computer to engage in a sexual act.

Monday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported:

While investigating new claims that led to a third criminal case against a local pastor facing a growing list of sexual abuse allegations, Las Vegas police apparently discovered that the pastor sometimes left pornography up on his church computer, which he often allowed the children to use.

An adult church member who spoke to police in early January said she once witnessed a child using 44-year-old Bramwell Retana’s computer, which had “pornographic materials” on the screen, according to his most recent arrest report released Monday. Another churchgoer, asked by Retana to take a look at an issue on the computer, opened the internet browser and also found “numerous open pages of pornography.”

When he confronted Retana about the porn, according to the report, the pastor suggested that one of children had opened the pages.

Retana, who was arrested Dec. 20, remains held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center. The Metropolitan Police Department began investigating him last year after a girl told her parents that the pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Oasis De Paz had been sexually abusing her for more than a year.

The most recent criminal case against Retana, charging him with five felony counts of lewdness with a child younger than 14, was opened Jan. 15, after Metro detectives identified two more potential victims, bringing the total number of accusers to at least six.

Earlier this month, Metro News reported:

Bramwell Rentana, 44, was originally arrested on child abuse and kidnapping charges concerning one alleged victim on December 20. Four more girls have since come forward to tell police in Las Vegas about twisted abusive roleplay said to have taken place at Rentana’s church, Iglesia Cristiana Oasis De Paz. According to police reports, Rentana took one girl who was ‘eight or nine years old’ and her friend to his home because he wanted to play a ‘role playing’ game where he acted like a dog or a horse. One detective wrote: ‘It should be noted, during Retana’s post-Miranda interview he explained he has a fetish and likes to be dominated and treated like a dog for sexual gratification.’

The parent of one victim spoke to her children after learning of Retana’s arrest. The children reportedly told their parent that ‘Rentana would play a game with them that they did not think was bad however, Rentana would tell them not to tell anyone,’ police wrote, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Days before Retana’s arrest, one parent overheard her daughter speaking with Retana’s wife on the phone. In police reports, Retana’s wife is referred to as ‘Gabby.’ ‘(Redacted alleged victim’s name) overheard Gabby say “sorry for talking to you that way, I thought you were trying to steal my husband.”‘

The girl later told investigators that Retana began abusing her over a year ago, when he ‘began kissing and licking her bare feet’ in his office while another child was in the room. She also said that the pastor once sent her a pornographic image. During a police interview, Retana’s wife said that she learned in May 2019 that her husband had kissed the girl and she knew they talked on the phone every day, but she never reported the incidents because she did not have proof.

Authorities say the abuse had been happening since 2016 and his alleged victims and their families believe there are more victims. One woman told investigators that she ‘believes they are afraid to come forward in fear of retaliation or immigration issues.’ An alleged victim said the abuse began when she was ‘six or seven’ years old. The four alleged victims that recently came forward said the abuse happened in Retana’s office at the church and at a home on the church’s property. One girl reportedly told police that Rentana had forced her into his office multiple times and once scratched her, leaving a scar.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Evangelist Acton Bowen Sentenced to Over 1,000 Years in Prison

acton bowen

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.

(Please read Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Evangelist Acton Bowen Arrested on Child Sex Charges,  Black Collar Crime: Why Did Young Boys Need to be Protected from Evangelist Acton Bowen? Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Accused of Additional Sex Crimes and Black Collar Crime: District Attorney Says Evangelist Acton Bowen is a ‘Danger to Every Child in This Community’, and Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes for further information about Acton Bowen.)

In April 2018, Evangelical evangelist Acton Bowen was arrested on child sexual abuse charges.

AL.com reported at the time:

A well-known Alabama evangelist, public speaker and author was arrested in Hoover Tuesday on child sex charges.

Paul Edward Acton Bowen, a 37-year-old Gadsden native who now lives in Etowah County’s Southside community, was taken into custody by Hoover police about 12:35 p.m. The founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries is charged with second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse. The victim was a young male, but police did not release his age except to say he is over 12 and under 16.

Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector said the department’s Special Victim’s Unit first launched an investigation three weeks ago. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued the warrants on Monday.

“This is certainly one of the more disturbing cases that we’ve investigated in quite some time,” Rector said. “Mr. Bowen is in a highly-respected position of influence and he is trusted by many. We believe he betrayed that trust in the worst kind of way.”

Bowen was taken into custody in Pelham and transported to the Hoover City Jail. He was moved to the Jefferson County Jail where he was released early Wednesday on $90,300 bond.

Rector said the victim in this case is an underage family acquaintance, “He is currently doing well and has been in a safe environment since police were first notified,” Rector said.

….

Bowen is president and founder of Acton Bowen Outreach. His bio says he served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.

The website says Bowen is a cohost of Top3 on the JuceTV Network in New York City.

“Everyone associated with JuceTV was shocked and disheartened to hear of the egregious allegations made against Acton Brown this week. Our prayers go out to those who may have been hurt and victimized,” a JuceTV spokesperson said in a statement to AL.com. “Mr. Brown made four appearances on JuceTV, an affiliate of TBN, the most recent last summer, but there are no on-going ties.”

The outreach website described Bowen as a regular contributor on Fox News as a correspondent on faith and religion. However, network officials say Bowen has never been employed or paid by Fox News.

It goes on to say he speaks up to 20 times a month at churches, disciple-now weekends, citywide crusades, camps, conferences, school assemblies and leadership seminars – giving him a live platform in front of more than 350,000 people.

acton bowen donald trump
Acton Bowen and President Donald Trump were Best Buds. I suspect, if asked about Bowen today, Trump would reply, “Never heard of the guy.”

Bowen was also charged with committing sex crimes in Florida. ABC 33/40 reported:

 The list of sexual abuse accusations against evangelist Acton Bowen has crossed state lines. Bowen was charged with lewd or lascivious battery in Bay County, Florida according to the local sheriff’s office.

The charge was filed on May 23rd. According to Florida state law, a person commits lewd or lascivious battery by engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age or encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sexual activity.

….

After posting the two aforementioned stories, it was reported that, two days after Bowen’s arrest, his wife filed for divorce, stating that she “fears for her immediate safety from (her husband) and any third parties that may attempt to contact (her husband) as a result of the crimes for which he has been alleged to have committed.” Several days later, two of Bowen’s ministry board members, Trenton Garmon and Josh Dodd, resigned. Al.com reported that Bowen was required by his board to install the Covenant Eyes porn-blocking software on his computer. Why? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. A daily report was sent to his accountability partner. No mention is made of how board members ensured Bowen was not accessing pornography on other devices.

What stood out in the AL.com report is the following statement by Garmon:

We requested that he never be alone with any female other than his wife. And we requested that he never be alone with a male minor which I considered to be someone under 16 years old. I was told that these minimums were being followed. Yet, in light of the allegation, it appears that the Guardian Policy was not always honored. This is not to imply criminal guilt by any means, yet our policy was not abided by. As you may be aware he has publicly denied the criminal allegations.

Why did Bowen’s board specifically require him to never be alone with boys under the age of sixteen and never be alone with females regardless of their age, other than his wife?

acton bowen anniversary gift to wife

After his arrest, Bowen said he was completely innocent of all charges:

I have not done what I am accused of and have not acted inappropriately in any way. My family and I trust the legal system and the people who are entrusted with the duty of protection each of our rights. I believe the truth will stand and I will be vindicated of this false accusation. We ask that each of you keep everyone involved in this process in your prayers.

AL.com reported:

In his first public statement, Bowen said he wanted to say “thank you” to the countless number of people who have prayed for his family. “My wife, Ashley, and I along with our incredible family are so grateful for your prayers,” he said.

“I’m also thankful for the countless calls of support from those who have walked a lot of life with me and know me best,” he said. “Your steadfast, unshakable support gives me strength. For almost 20 years (since I was 18) my life has been committed to serving Jesus by serving people.”

“When this accusation was made known to me I was hurt, confused, and heartbroken,” he said. “Prior to the arrest only one side of the story was heard.”

….

On Monday, the “innocent” Acton Bowen pleaded guilty to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving victims between the ages of 13 and 16. I wonder if his praying supporters will now admit that Bowen is a sexual predator; that it is likely Bowen sexually molested other children who have not yet reported their abuse to law enforcement? Is it too much to ask that God’s people, in unison, condemn Bowen for his heinous behavior? I jest. Bowen’s supporters will scurry away in the night like cockroaches when the light is turned on, but few will take to social media or blogs to publicly excoriate Bowen. Forgive, forget, and move on. That’s what Evangelicals do.

AL.com reports:

An Alabama evangelist pleaded guilty this morning in an Etowah County courtroom to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving six victims.

Paul Acton Bowen, charged in both Jefferson County and Etowah counties, was facing criminal charges, including enticing a child for sexual act, sodomy, traveling to meet a child for sexual act and sexual abuse involving six different victims between the ages of 13 and 16.

He was first arrested by Hoover police in April 2018 and has remained jailed since then.

The 39-year-old Bowen is a Gadsden native and founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries.

Bowen entered a blind plea to the Etowah County charges, meaning he could face the maximum for each offense, including up to life in prison. Circuit Judge Debra Jones will set a hearing for sentencing later, during which Bowen’s lawyers could present mitigating evidence toward any sentencing. Jones was hearing the case after several Etowah County judges recused themselves from the case. Bowen’s ex-wife was the daughter of an Etowah County judge.

….

Bowen served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.

The Etowah County charges dealt with young boys who told investigators that after they met Bowen through his ministry, they were abused in several ways not only in Etowah County but during trips to different states and abroad.

Bowen remains in jail, awaiting sentencing. He faces up to life in prison for his crimes. Bowen still faces charges in Florida.

Last Friday, Circuit Judge Debra Jones sentenced Bowen to 1,008 years in prison for sexually abusing six teenagers.

AL.com reports:

Circuit Judge Debra Jones presided over the case after several Etowah County judges recused themselves. Bowen’s ex-wife is the daughter of an Etowah County judge.

Moments before being sentenced, Bowen, standing in shackles, looked out on a packed courtroom and apologized in a trembling voice, both to his own family and the victims, for years of sexual abuse. “The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” he said. “My heart was never wanting to hurt anybody but my mind was not well.”

Family members and victims wept as Jones slowly read out the maximum sentence and fine on every count. Each sentence is to run consecutively – rather than concurrent.

Bowen still faces trial in Jefferson County on three felony charges of traveling to meet a child for sex, enticing a child for a sexual act and sodomy. Trial is set on those charges for April 20, 2020. If Bowen ever should be released from jail on his Etowah County convictions – which prosecutors said was unlikely – he would be considered a “sexually violent predator,” which means he would face a 10-year probationary period.

….

The Etowah County charges dealt with young boys who told investigators that, after they met Bowen through his ministry, they were abused in several ways not only in Etowah County but during trips to different states and abroad. The young male victims told investigators the misconduct lasted months, and sometimes years.

One of the victims, a teen boy over the age of 12 but under the age of 16, said Bowen exposed him to sexual intercourse from 2006 through 2009. Another victim claims the abuse happened from 2014 through 2017, and yet another reported to lawmen that he suffered the abuse in 2018.

In the sentencing hearing, which lasted more than an hour in Etowah County, District Attorney Jody Willoughby read out one victim’s impact statement. That victim, who said his abuse happened from the age of 12 to 15, said he saw Bowen as a “cool guy” who provided him with nice clothes, money and took him on trips, while at the same time, engaging in abuse.

“I could convince myself I was living the good life,” he wrote, “even as I was trying to suppress it.” But the victim said he developed a drinking problem that led to blackouts as he attempted to forget the pain and shame of abuse, seeing himself as “damaged goods.” This led to problems trusting others, difficulty opening up to his wife, and “a divide between me and my God” because of Bowen’s role as a pastor.

“He is a wolf in sheep’s skin,” the man wrote. Another wrote that Bowen “did his best to ruin the lives of other young men.” Another victim was prepared to testify in court, but chose not to, too overcome by emotion. Willoughby said this shows how important Bowen’s guilty plea was, in that victims were not required to relive the abuse on the stand.

….

Police have said the victim in the Jefferson County case is a Hoover boy under the age of 16 and over the age of 12 who is a family acquaintance of Acton Bowen. Court records in the Jefferson County case say Bowen engaged in sexual intercourse with the teen boy, and enticed him into getting into a 2010 Jeep Wrangler for the purpose of sodomy.

Bowen was first arrested by Hoover police in April 2018 on charges involving one male teen and later by Etowah County authorities in the case involving the other six victims.

Authorities have said they believe there are other victims who still have not been heard from. After the hearing, Willoughby said he would prosecute any other cases.

“There’s not a question in my mind,” he said. “If anyone is out there who wants to come forward, please let law enforcement know. We will get justice, justice will be had.”

Just before sentencing, Bowen quoted the book of James, saying “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He said at church functions, he would often have people tell him they wished they could be like him.

“Inside my heart, I kept saying, ‘I’m the biggest sinner in the room,’” he said. “My pride kept me from asking for help. I’m so sorry.”

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Loren Copp Sentenced on Sex Crime Charges

loren copp

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.

The following story will leave you shaking your head, wondering how the pastor in question was able to do what he did.

In April 2017,  Loren Copp, an Evangelical pastor, owner of DoJo Pizza, and all-round con-artist was arrested on charges of producing child pornography. The River Front Times reported at the time:

Loren Copp, the Dojo Pizza owner targeted in a long-running criminal investigation, was arrested Thursday afternoon on charges of producing child pornography.

Federal agents took the 47-year-old into custody about 3:45 p.m. outside the Bevo Mill church where he once taught karate, ran a pizza restaurant, operated a school and raised four teenage girls, according to a witness and his attorney.

The federal complaint claims investigators searched “multiple types of digital media” and discovered an image of a minor performing oral sex on Copp and another of Copp having vaginal sex with the girl. The minor, listed as “Jane Doe 1” in the document, identified Copp as the man in the photos, according to the complaint. She says she was about twelve in the first photo and fifteen or sixteen in the second.

Copp was lured on Thursday to the dojo, which had been boarded up since a law enforcement raid in October, by a city building inspector who called to say someone had broken in, Copp’s friend John Albrecht tells the Riverfront Times.

Copp had asked his friend to drive with him, because he worried he was being set up, Albrecht said.

….

Copp was the subject of an RFT feature story in December after a series of federal raids on Dojo Pizza. He was taken into police custody for a couple of days in October on suspicion of child endangerment, but he was released without charges.

He has maintained his innocence, blaming the investigation on a disgruntled former live-in volunteer who he’d ejected from the dojo. Court documents filed in support of the early raids revealed police were investigating accusations of human trafficking, alleging Copp forced the teens to work for free in the pizzeria. He denied the charge. The girls were staying him because their parents were on drugs, imprisoned or otherwise unable to care for them, he said. Two of the girls had lived with him so long, they called him their father, and he considered them his daughters.

Parents, visitors to the dojo and one of the girls interviewed by the RFT supported him.

The charges of production of child pornography are new.

Agents who’d previously raided the dojo, a former church in October and November, had been seen taking evidence boxes and computers from the building.

In interviews, Copp has suggested investigators have been trying to set him up and possibly planted evidence. He noted neighbors claim to have seen men who appeared to be law enforcement officers climb in through a back window before one of the raids.

Twenty-four hours after Copp’s arrest, The River Front Times reported:

Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp arrived handcuffed and shackled at the ankles on Friday in federal court for his first appearance since his arrest on child pornography charges.

His attorney had dropped him overnight. Some of his strongest supporters have backed away now that the FBI says it has photographic proof he sexually abused a girl over the course of several years, starting with a stomach-churning snapshot of the two of them in a sex act when she was just twelve years old.

Until a series of law enforcement raids in October and November, he’d lived with four teenage girls in a converted church at 4601 Morgan Ford Road in Bevo Mill where he taught karate, established a school and operated a pizzeria.

Federal authorities claim they found the pornographic photos on a computer hard drive seized during one of the raids. Investigators showed the pictures to the girl on Wednesday, and she identified herself and Copp, according to the criminal complaint released on Thursday following his arrest.

Tauna Cowin, whose two oldest daughters lived with Copp most of their lives, says she cried all night after reading the newly revealed allegations.

“If he did do this, I hope he rots in jail,” she told the Riverfront Times. “I’m sorry, but I hope he rots in jail.”

Cowin knew Copp, a former pastor, through her kids’ school and church. When she was losing her home about a decade ago, she sent a son and the two girls to live with him and his wife at the time. The boy eventually moved on, but the girls stayed and began calling Copp “Dad” even though he wasn’t their biological father.

Cowin says the girls previously told her Copp never abused them, but she hadn’t talked to them since his arrest. They have been in foster care since the Dojo Pizza raids last fall.

“I just don’t know how to freakin’ take this,” Cowin said through tears. “It’s hitting me hard. I thought I knew this man, he was my pastor.”

Copp was the subject of an RFT feature story in December and has claimed he was just helping kids whose parents couldn’t take care of them.

Attorney Justin Meehan, a longtime martial artist, had advised Copp for free in the months after the raids. Law enforcement affidavits had described Copp as the target of a “Labor Trafficking and Sexual Abuse” investigation, allegations that the lawyer thought lacked much in the way of support.

He has a policy of not taking on clients who are accused of hurting kids, but a fellow martial artist vouched for Copp, and Meehan eventually agreed to get involved — with the caveat that he’d walk if there was more to it than a weak trafficking case.

Meehan felt “blindsided” Thursday when he learned prosecutors were now pursuing a charge of producing child pornography, he said. True to his word, he has decided to cut ties with Copp.

Copp also owned and operated Ma-ji Ryu Christian Karate Association. City officials seized DoJo Pizza’s building to satisfy a $13,940 tax liability. The building was bought at sheriff’s auction for $35,714.

Copp’s past is filled with accusations of malfeasance and financial misconduct. In 2013, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

Bargain hunters snapped up 40 years of Southwest Christian Church’s history last weekend. Tables, chairs — even pots and pans used for countless fellowship meals — were sold off as part of the church’s closure.

Southwest Christian has been wrangling with a tangle of debt tied to a failed $2 million church expansion that congregants helped finance. The project sits unfinished at 1694 Smizer Station Road, near Highway 141.

Now the remaining congregants who haven’t scattered will gather Sunday for one final service at a church some have attended for two generations.

At first glance, it seems like a tragic but familiar tale of a church getting too ambitious, growing faster than it ought.

But Douglas Lay, a former pastor at the church, is among those who tell a different story.

By his account, Southwest Christian historically played it smart, avoiding debt and making do with its aging and modest building.

At least it did until it ran into Loren Copp — a pastor and builder with a history of failed financial dealings.

“He left them up a creek without a paddle,” said Lay, who led the church in the late 1990s. “There are good people there.”

Copp, who became the church’s pastor in 2007, was the pastor when Southwest Christian decided to support the expansion project that would include a Christian high school, even though similar efforts in St. Louis County had failed in recent years. It started out at $1.5 million, then grew to $2 million.

Church members helped pitch in on the expansion by buying bonds, using the existing building as collateral.

Today, the project is stalled, mired in mediation with the original developer and lien holders claiming they haven’t been paid.

Copp has since moved on.

….

Church leaders knew that the building project would be a major undertaking. But they believed they had a plan that would both underwrite the expense and satisfy the church’s goal to expand its outreach.

Under the plan, the new Christian high school would lease the expanded church building during the week.

And to help funnel students to the school and broaden the church’s ministry, some members supported an existing K-8 school Copp was involved with in south St. Louis.
Both schools are called Living Faith Christian Academy and are governed independently from the church by Copp’s own nonprofit — Ma Ji Ryu Christian Karate Association. Copp uses his martial arts skills to minister.

In 2011, Copp touted the high school project, saying it would open that fall. He brushed off skeptics, who pointed to other failed school projects in the area.

The schools would be funded by tuition, not church donations.

“This is a school that is going to be run as a business,” he told the Post-Dispatch at the time, adding: “If it doesn’t work, you’ll have a story to write.”

The high school did open. But students could only meet in certain sections of the building because the project was incomplete.

A 2011 St Louis Post-Dispatch story had this to say about Copp’s checkered past:

His [Copp] past, however, is marked with bankruptcy, unpaid bills and allegations of deception and poor management.

Illinois records show he owes nearly $10,000 in child support. When he moved to St. Louis in 2003, lawsuits and unpaid bills from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois followed, nipping at his ankles. Most stemmed from construction projects Copp started and never finished.

Problems continued here at Stocker Construction, which fired him from a residential construction manager position in 2006 for severe losses on projects Copp oversaw, said a representative of the now-defunct company.

A year earlier, a judge approved a negotiated settlement of $203,400 to satisfy a suit brought against Copp by the Illinois attorney general. The sum was said to be a portion of what nine customers were owed.

Copp filed for bankruptcy in St. Louis around that time and has repaid just a token amount.

“If he is so conscientious about a soda, how does he feel about our house and other people’s houses that he walked out on with hefty sums of money?” said Ofelia Nikolova, 54, a party in the lawsuit and a former assistant professor in French at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “Tell him to come back and pay me. I’ll take $50,000.”

March 3, 2018, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

A former pastor and owner of a St. Louis pizza restaurant and martial arts studio facing federal child sex charges will represent himself at his trial next week.

Loren “Sensei” Copp will have standby counsel, but told U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig Monday that he wanted to represent himself.
He faces nine counts in all, including production, attempted production and possession of child pornography and the use of interstate facilities to persuade or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity.

Copp has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He also provided a list of five alibi witnesses in a court filing that says they will testify that he was not “at the scene of the crime” on specific dates.

That scene, according to prosecutors, was a combination pizza shop, martial arts studio and youth shelter at 4601 Morganford Road that was raided multiple times in the fall of 2015 after claims that Copp was not adequately caring for or paying underage employees.

DoJo Pizza operated as a nonprofit to support free karate classes, its website once said.

Investigators said they found child porn during the searches, and subsequent charges claim Copp sexually abused multiple young girls.

One was between 10 and 13 when Copp first fondled her, prosecutors say in court filings. He later raped her, they say, and she couldn’t accurately count the number of times she was abused. Filings say Copp also made videos of the sex acts, and she witnessed him abusing another resident of the shelter. He had child porn featuring the first teen and another underage girl, and also tried taking photos of two girls undressing, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors have also said they will use statements Copp made to a fellow inmate at the St. Charles County Jail and phone calls and emails from his time behind bars awaiting trial.

….

On April 11, 2018, Copp told the court he is innocent and that there’s an explanation for the child porn on his computer. Copp was later found guilty of eight counts of sex crimes against underage girls.

Yesterday, Copp was sentenced to sixty-five years in federal prison. He previously rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for fifteen years.

KMOV-4 reported:

According to prosecutors, several underage girls lived at Dojo Pizza, which is located on Morganford in the Bevo Mill neighborhood. Copp either had sole custody or care of the girls because their parents were incarcerated or homeless, authorities said. Copp groomed, sexually abused, and raped two young girls who had been in his custody since 2009.

The sexual acts were recorded on a cell phone or video recorder.

Copp allegedly forced the girls to work at the pizza shop and did not pay them appropriately or provide consistent food. He is also accused of threatening to kick the girls out when they didn’t work, which would leave them homeless.

During the trial, evidence of Facebook messages between three girls and a fake account Copp used pretending to be a 13-year-old girl named “Chrissy”. The profile picture on the account was of a young girl. Investigators found that photo on Copp’s computer along with other pornographic images of the three victims that were sent to “Chrissy” Facebook page.

Investigators found conversations that referenced sexual acts that occurred between the three girls. In addition, subscriber information and backup emails used for the “Chrissy” Facebook account, as well as a Yahoo email account, were linked to Copp.

2019: By the Numbers

blogging

What follows are the traffic statistics for 2019.

Statistics

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Comments from December 2014 to Date: 24,781

Top Twenty Commenters

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Cameron Giovanelli Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

cameron giovanelli

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 May 2018, I wrote a post about the sexual assault allegations made against Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher and college president Cameron Giovanelli. (Please see Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Cameron Giovanelli Accused of Sexual Assault)  Giovanelli resigned from Golden State Baptist College and did what disgraced IFB preachers often do: moved across the country, joined up with one of his preacher buddies, and continued on in the ministry as if nothing happened.

In May 2019, I received word that Giovanelli was in Florida working as the associate pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Giovanelli planned on helping Immanuel Baptist’s pastor, Greg Neal, start a new unaccredited IFB secondary institution called North Florida Baptist College. Neal, himself, was caught up in a sex scandal in 2011 when he was accused of video voyeurism. You can read more about Neal’s brush with the law here and here. Neal, unfortunately, escaped prosecution. (Please see Black Collar Crime: Pastor Cameron Giovanelli Resurrects From the Dead, Found in Florida)

cameron giovanelli charges

In August 2019, Giovanelli was charged by Baltimore, Maryland County police with sexual abuse of a minor and several other sex crimes. If convicted, Giovanelli faced up to thirty-six years in prison. (Case Information)

WBAL-11 reports:

Police charging documents claim Giovanelli initially tried to teach her how to kiss which turned into a daily encounter and eventually sexual assault. Police say an associate pastor at the church became suspicious. The associate said he confronted Giovanelli and told him to stop and the associate got an email later that night from Giovanelli thanking him.

“[Thanks] for saving his life and saving his ministry …. He thought God sent him to stop him from doing something,” said Giovanelli in police charging documents.

An investigation was opened in May 2018 when the victim reported the abuse to police. The completed investigation was submitted to the office of the state’s attorney, at which time the decision was made to charge Giovanelli.

An arrest warrant was obtained and served on Monday. Giovanelli voluntarily turned himself in to police Tuesday. He was released on his own recognizance at an initial bail hearing under the condition that he have no contact with any minor.

Based on information provided by the victim, police believe it is likely there are additional victims who were abused by Giovanelli during his time as pastor at the church [Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk, Maryland] and school located in the 7300 block of Manchester Road.

Today, Giovanelli pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault. Giovanelli will serve a whopping 90-days in the county jail and be on probation for five years. He will not have to register as a sex offender.

Knowing the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement as I do, Giovanelli will likely have a new ministry gig lined up before he even leaves jail. There’s no shame in some IFB circles. I’m sure that Giovanelli will paint himself as an innocent victim who pleaded guilty to avoid a long prison sentence. No shame, indeed.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

acton bowen

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.

(Please read Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Evangelist Acton Bowen Arrested on Child Sex Charges,  Black Collar Crime: Why Did Young Boys Need to be Protected from Evangelist Acton Bowen? Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Accused of Additional Sex Crimes and Black Collar Crime: District Attorney Says Evangelist Acton Bowen is a ‘Danger to Every Child in This Community’ for further information about Acton Bowen.)

In April 2018, Evangelical evangelist Acton Bowen was arrested on child sexual abuse charges.

AL.com reported at the time:

A well-known Alabama evangelist, public speaker and author was arrested in Hoover Tuesday on child sex charges.

Paul Edward Acton Bowen, a 37-year-old Gadsden native who now lives in Etowah County’s Southside community, was taken into custody by Hoover police about 12:35 p.m. The founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries is charged with second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse. The victim was a young male, but police did not release his age except to say he is over 12 and under 16.

Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector said the department’s Special Victim’s Unit first launched an investigation three weeks ago. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued the warrants on Monday.

“This is certainly one of the more disturbing cases that we’ve investigated in quite some time,” Rector said. “Mr. Bowen is in a highly-respected position of influence and he is trusted by many. We believe he betrayed that trust in the worst kind of way.”

Bowen was taken into custody in Pelham and transported to the Hoover City Jail. He was moved to the Jefferson County Jail where he was released early Wednesday on $90,300 bond.

Rector said the victim in this case is an underage family acquaintance, “He is currently doing well and has been in a safe environment since police were first notified,” Rector said.

….

Bowen is president and founder of Acton Bowen Outreach. His bio says he served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.

The website says Bowen is a cohost of Top3 on the JuceTV Network in New York City.

“Everyone associated with JuceTV was shocked and disheartened to hear of the egregious allegations made against Acton Brown this week. Our prayers go out to those who may have been hurt and victimized,” a JuceTV spokesperson said in a statement to AL.com. “Mr. Brown made four appearances on JuceTV, an affiliate of TBN, the most recent last summer, but there are no on-going ties.”

The outreach website described Bowen as a regular contributor on Fox News as a correspondent on faith and religion. However, network officials say Bowen has never been employed or paid by Fox News.

It goes on to say he speaks up to 20 times a month at churches, disciple-now weekends, citywide crusades, camps, conferences, school assemblies and leadership seminars – giving him a live platform in front of more than 350,000 people.

acton bowen donald trump
Acton Bowen and President Donald Trump were Best Buds. I suspect, if asked about Bowen today, Trump would reply, “Never heard of the guy.”

Bowen was also charged with committing sex crimes in Florida. ABC 33/40 reported:

 The list of sexual abuse accusations against evangelist Acton Bowen has crossed state lines. Bowen was charged with lewd or lascivious battery in Bay County, Florida according to the local sheriff’s office.

The charge was filed on May 23rd. According to Florida state law, a person commits lewd or lascivious battery by engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age or encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sexual activity.

….

After posting the two aforementioned stories, it was reported that, two days after Bowen’s arrest, his wife filed for divorce, stating that she “fears for her immediate safety from (her husband) and any third parties that may attempt to contact (her husband) as a result of the crimes for which he has been alleged to have committed.” Several days later, two of Bowen’s ministry board members, Trenton Garmon and Josh Dodd, resigned. Al.com reported that Bowen was required by his board to install the Covenant Eyes porn-blocking software on his computer. Why? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. A daily report was sent to his accountability partner. No mention is made of how board members ensured Bowen was not accessing pornography on other devices.

What stood out in the AL.com report is the following statement by Garmon:

We requested that he never be alone with any female other than his wife. And we requested that he never be alone with a male minor which I considered to be someone under 16 years old. I was told that these minimums were being followed. Yet, in light of the allegation, it appears that the Guardian Policy was not always honored. This is not to imply criminal guilt by any means, yet our policy was not abided by. As you may be aware he has publicly denied the criminal allegations.

Why did Bowen’s board specifically require him to never be alone with boys under the age of sixteen and never be alone with females regardless of their age, other than his wife?

acton bowen anniversary gift to wife

After his arrest, Bowen said he was completely innocent of all charges:

I have not done what I am accused of and have not acted inappropriately in any way. My family and I trust the legal system and the people who are entrusted with the duty of protection each of our rights. I believe the truth will stand and I will be vindicated of this false accusation. We ask that each of you keep everyone involved in this process in your prayers.

AL.com reported:

In his first public statement, Bowen said he wanted to say “thank you” to the countless number of people who have prayed for his family. “My wife, Ashley, and I along with our incredible family are so grateful for your prayers,” he said.

“I’m also thankful for the countless calls of support from those who have walked a lot of life with me and know me best,” he said. “Your steadfast, unshakable support gives me strength. For almost 20 years (since I was 18) my life has been committed to serving Jesus by serving people.”

“When this accusation was made known to me I was hurt, confused, and heartbroken,” he said. “Prior to the arrest only one side of the story was heard.”

….

On Monday, the “innocent” Acton Bowen pleaded guilty to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving victims between the ages of 13 and 16. I wonder if his praying supporters will now admit that Bowen is a sexual predator; that it is likely Bowen sexually molested other children who have not yet reported their abuse to law enforcement? Is it too much to ask that God’s people, in unison, condemn Bowen for his heinous behavior? I jest. Bowen’s supporters will scurry away in the night like cockroaches when the light is turned on, but few will take to social media or blogs to publickly excoriate Bowen. Forgive, forget, and move on. That’s what Evangelicals do.

AL.com reports:

An Alabama evangelist pleaded guilty this morning in an Etowah County courtroom to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving six victims.

Paul Acton Bowen, charged in both Jefferson County and Etowah counties, was facing criminal charges, including enticing a child for sexual act, sodomy, traveling to meet a child for sexual act and sexual abuse involving six different victims between the ages of 13 and 16.

He was first arrested by Hoover police in April 2018 and has remained jailed since then.

The 39-year-old Bowen is a Gadsden native and founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries.

Bowen entered a blind plea to the Etowah County charges, meaning he could face the maximum for each offense, including up to life in prison. Circuit Judge Debra Jones will set a hearing for sentencing later, during which Bowen’s lawyers could present mitigating evidence toward any sentencing. Jones was hearing the case after several Etowah County judges recused themselves from the case. Bowen’s ex-wife was the daughter of an Etowah County judge.

….

Bowen served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.

The Etowah County charges dealt with young boys who told investigators that after they met Bowen through his ministry, they were abused in several ways not only in Etowah County but during trips to different states and abroad.

Bowen remains in jail, awaiting sentencing. He faces up to life in prison for his crimes. Bowen still faces charges in Florida.