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Category: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Leonard Eley Indicted on Sex Crime Charges

pastor leonard eley

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.

Leonard Eley, pastor of Storm Shelter Ministries in Laurel, Delaware, stands accused of soliciting nude photos from a runaway child.

WHYY reports:

A Delaware pastor allegedly paid a runaway child for several nude photos of herself,  and authorities suspect he may have done the same with other minors.

Leonard Eley, 62, who heads Storm Shelter Ministries on U.S. 13 in the Sussex County town of Laurel, used $200 of church funds to pay the child electronically through CashApp, and paid her cell phone bill, authorities said in court records. The child, whose age was not disclosed, was a former member of the church, police said.

Only one alleged victim is specified in Eley’s arrest affidavit and indictment but Mat Marshall of the Attorney General’s Office said that based on interviews with witnesses, authorities suspect there are more victims.

Eley faces charges of sexual solicitation of a minor, two counts of possession of child pornography, and theft by false pretenses.

Laurel police began investigating in late July after calls to hotlines run by the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Division of Family Services that reported a child was possibly “being sexually trafficked.”

The pastor was arrested then just on the solicitation charge, and released on a $30,000 secured bond. A Sussex County grand jury indicted Eley on all four charges on Nov. 28, and this week authorities announced the alleged crimes in a news release.

….

In one exchange, Eley told the girl she “has too much clothes on in one picture,’’ and asked her to remove some and send another picture. He added that he “is sending $50 on CashApp,” the detective wrote.

In another text exchange, Eley asked her to do the same thing, promised to send $150 this time, and that “no one will ever see the pictures but him,’’ the affidavit said.

Eley also asked her numerous times to “delete the messages” between them, Whitehouse wrote.

The child told authorities she did what he asked, and received $200, Whitehouse wrote, adding that he “observed CashApp receipts” sent from Eley to the child.

The indictment said the money came from “church donations made to the Storm Shelter Ministries CashApp Account.”

WHYY News reached Eley by phone Wednesday, but in response to queries, the pastor said “no” three times and then hung up.

Whitehouse wrote in the arrest affidavit that “pastor eley” was listed as a contact in the girl’s cell phone, and the number matched Eley’s number.

The girl’s phone also included a “selfie” photo sent from Eley’s number that matched his driver’s license picture, Whitehouse wrote.

Whitehouse reviewed several texts between Eley and the child, the affidavit said.

Ministry Watch adds:

When detectives confronted him, police said Eley confessed to asking and paying for the pictures. He told police he had PTSD from a traumatic brain injury he encountered in the military. He cited his PTSD as the reason he requested the pictures. Police said they captured Eley’s confession on a body cam.

Detectives said Eley instructed the victim several times to delete the conversations between them and made other lewd statements to her.

Storm Shelter Ministries was incorporated in September 2005, but its listed status is “unknown,” according to Bizapedia. The church’s Facebook page is currently unavailable.

The child is the only victim mentioned in Eley’s arrest affidavit and indictment, but based on interviews with witnesses, authorities believe there are more.

The Delaware DOJ continues seeking more information from the public and is asking for help identifying more victims.

Authorities released Eley from custody on a $30,000 secured bond. In November, a Sussex County grand jury indicted Eley on all four charges.

Eley remains out on bond as he awaits his court date. He has not entered a plea yet.

His arraignment will be in early January.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Updated: Black Collar Crime: Anglican Lay Pastor Mark Rivera Convicted of Sexual Assault

pastor mark rivera

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.

Mark Rivera, a lay pastor at Christ Our Light Anglican in Big Rock, Illinois — an Anglican Church affiliated with the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest — was charged earlier this year with two felony counts of criminal sexual assault.

The Religion News Service reported at the time:

A former lay pastor in a conservative Anglican denomination was charged Wednesday (Dec. 29) with two felony counts of criminal sexual assault in the Kane County, Illinois, circuit court. The charges come a year after Joanna Rudenborg reported Mark Rivera, her former neighbor, to Kane County police, accusing him of raping her in 2018 and again in 2020. 

According to Pat Gengler, undersheriff at Kane County, bail was set at $50,000 and Rivera was released after a hearing. “He’s on home monitoring, so he does have a GPS bracelet which greatly restricts his movements,” said Gengler.

….

“I’m glad he was finally charged and the prosecution is happening,” said Rudenborg. “It’s certainly validating that the state looked at the evidence and said, this is a strong case worth pursuing. … I hope that my story being taken seriously by the authorities will help other people take other victims’ stories more seriously.”

….

Rivera is also being prosecuted on charges of felony sexual assault and predatory abuse of a victim under 13 years of age, and at least eight others have made allegations of abuse by Rivera, including child sexual abuse, grooming, rape and assault.

Rivera was a lay minister at Christ Our Light Anglican, an ACNA church plant in Big Rock, Illinois, from 2013 to 2019. He was also a volunteer leader at Church of the Resurrection — the headquarters of the Upper Midwest Diocese — in Wheaton, Illinois, from the mid-1990s until 2013.

On Aug. 28, ACNA announced the members of a Provincial Response Team that would oversee an investigation into the diocese’s handling of the allegations. The denomination was not able to respond to a request for comment by the time of publication, but according to an email sent from the Provincial Response Team to Rudenborg on Nov. 30 and shown to Religion News Service, the group was “ready to begin the initial vetting process to narrow down the list” of investigative firms. That list would then be voted on by both survivors and members of the Provincial Response Team. On Twitter, Rudenborg expressed frustration at the team’s lack of action.

“At this point, I’m safe from Mark, I’m not in any direct danger, so really what I want is for him to not be able to harm anyone else,” Rudenborg told RNS. “The only way we can be sure that that’s going to happen is if he goes back into custody. So it’s kind of still a waiting game.”

Last week, Rivera was found guilty of two counts of felony predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and three felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on February 10.

The Daily Herald reports:

Mark Rivera, 49, of Winfield was found guilty of two counts of felony predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and three felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Feb. 10.

Rivera was a lay pastor at the Anglican Church of North America in Big Rock when he sexually assaulted a child under the age of 13 multiple times between June 2018 and May 2019, according to a news release from the Kane County state’s attorney’s office. The abuse was reported to authorities after the victim told her mother.

“Mr. Rivera is a predator who used his position of respectability and stature in a church and within the community to prey on this child with no consideration for the trauma he caused,” Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Rodgers said. “The victim showed great courage in telling her mother about his criminal conduct, in preparing for this trial and in facing him in court.”

Rivera will have to register for life as a sexual offender, authorities said. He remains in custody at the Kane County jail on $500,000 bail.

After Rivera’s arrest, it came to light that he allegedly molested other children. A damning third-party report was revealed in October 2022, calling into question the Anglican denomination’s culpability in Rivera’s crimes.

Ministry Watch reported:

A long-awaited third-party report on sexual abuse reveals that leaders in an Anglican Church in North America diocese failed to act on tips about sexual misconduct and abuse and defended an alleged abuser as innocent while questioning reported survivors’ credibility.

The probe into events in the Upper Midwest Diocese, conducted by the investigative firm Husch Blackwell, also found that an ACNA priest did not report abuse by a lay pastor to the Department of Child and Family Services, claiming a church lawyer told him he was exempt from mandatory reporting laws, and that Bishop Stewart Ruch III and others allowed a church volunteer to have contact with teenagers after he had lost his teaching job for inappropriate behavior with students.

As serious as the report’s findings are, the investigation went forward without hearing from at least five alleged survivors of abuse who refused to participate over concerns about transparency.

The Upper Midwest Diocese in the ACNA—a small denomination formed by a 2009 split with the Episcopal Church over its LGBTQ-affirming policies—has been roiled since 2019 by allegations that Mark Rivera, a former lay pastor in the diocese known for his charisma and physical affection, had sexually abused young people he had met through Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois, and Christ Our Light Anglican Church in Big Rock, Illinois.

….

At least 10 individuals have made sexual abuse or sexual misconduct allegations against Rivera, who is now on trial in Kane County, Illinois, on charges of felony sexual assault and predatory abuse of a victim under 13 years of age. Rivera also faces charges for two felony counts of criminal sexual assault of a separate alleged adult victim. 

Ruch is on leave after admitting he made serious mistakes in handling the abuse allegations against Rivera, including failing to initially tell members of the Upper Midwest Diocese about those allegations.

ACNA spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment. 

Four years earlier, in 2015, several leaders became aware that a lay leader at Christ Our Light Anglican, Chris Lapeyre, had been fired from a high school teaching position that year over concerns about a relationship with a female student, according to the report. 

The Rev. Rand York, a priest at the church, told investigators he knew that Lapeyre had lost his job and why but allowed Lapeyre to stay in leadership, saying that he “was not concerned about Lapeyre interacting with young people at COLA because Lapeyre had three daughters of his own.”

Ruch, bishop of the diocese, reportedly told investigators that he also knew that Lapeyre had been fired over a “boundary crossing” issue but took no action. Lapeyre said his termination didn’t limit his leadership opportunities at either Christ Our Light Anglican or Church of the Resurrection, the diocesan headquarters in Wheaton.

The report states that Lapeyre, a friend of Rivera’s, told investigators he was aware of sexual misconduct by Rivera involving an adult woman in 2018 but did not tell anyone about it until 2020.

The report goes on to say that Ruch and York did not attempt to learn more about additional abuse allegations against Rivera made known to them in 2019, and Ruch did not consider reaching out to parents of at-risk teens who might have been vulnerable to abuse by Rivera.

Released online late Tuesday evening (Sept. 27), the report follows a monthslong investigation that was contentious from the start due to the objections from some of Rivera’s accusers.

“I have no reason to believe that anything about this investigation is independent,” said Cherin Marie when the investigation was announced in January. Cherin Marie, whose then-9-year-old daughter reported being sexually abused by Rivera in May 2019, has asked that her last name not be used to protect her family’s privacy.

Joanna Rudenborg, who says she was abused by Rivera, too, tweeted on Sept. 17 about her skepticism toward the anticipated report: “(T)he investigation has never been about justice or healing for survivors. It has been first and foremost about doing damage control.”

Survivors and advocates affiliated with ACNAtoo, an anti-abuse advocacy group, have publicly criticized the report on social media for including explicit details about a minor’s sexual abuse without the child’s consent. 

“The minor is one of multiple survivors of Mark Rivera’s sexual assault that chose not to participate in the investigation because it was obvious that the investigation was not safe,” Abbi Nye, an ACNAtoo advocate, tweeted on Friday morning. “They were right.”

Members of ACNAtoo say that while many of them reached out to ACNA leaders days ago asking them to redact the minor’s details, the report remains online, unedited. 

“The account of the young girl’s abuse in the report is all hearsay, from two leaders who are implicated in mishandling her abuse,” Nye told RNS. 

Investigators were asked to gather information about how ACNA leaders handled abuse allegations—but were barred from recommending charges or punishments.

“We were charged with gathering evidence regarding such issues and reporting the information collected, but we were explicitly directed not to render any legal determinations, evaluate or opine about any governance structure issues, or seek to address whether any discipline is warranted,” the firm wrote in its report.

….

The Rev. Gina Roes and Christen Price, an ordained deacon and attorney, respectively, told Religion News Service that the report is difficult to evaluate, given the severe limitations of its scope. Both women resigned in January from the Provincial Response Team originally charged with overseeing the investigations, claiming its process “never felt survivor-centered.” 

“It sort of defeats the purpose of having an investigation if there are no conclusions that can be made from the report,” said Roes, pointing to the report’s lack of analysis. “It leaves it in the hands of the ACNA and the diocese to interpret and characterize those facts.”

When asked about next steps, Roes and Price said denominational leaders who were excluded from the report due to its diocesan scope should be investigated. “There needs to be an investigation of the province,” said Price, referring to ACNA. 

In interviews with Husch Blackwell, Ruch admitted the diocese lacked protocols for responding to sexual misconduct allegations and left the matter largely for law enforcement to pursue.

But the report identifies another obstacle to reporting abuse: In notes and emails, church officials repeatedly expressed their belief in Rivera’s innocence.

“While I believe this entire accusation to be spurious (something has happened to this girl, but Mark is not the culprit), I fear however that this will spell the end of Christ Our Light,” York reportedly wrote in a May 20, 2019, email. “I believe Mark to be innocent. I would be stunned to find anything untoward with regard to his actions,” he wrote in another email days later.

Charles Philbrick, the church lawyer who reportedly advised York he wasn’t obligated to report the allegations, told Husch Blackwell he found the child’s allegations “hard to believe.” (The report says York was investigated by DCFS for failing to report, but nothing seems to have come from the investigation.) Philbrick said he gave Rivera a referral to a defense attorney, but only, he told investigators, out of his ethical obligation as an attorney, not in his capacity as chancellor, or church legal officer. 

As you can see, what seemed important to denomination officials was protecting the “good” name of their sect and the churches in question. I suspect the “truth” has yet to be revealed as far as the extent of Rivera’s sexual misconduct is concerned. Heads should roll, but it is unlikely that they will. They will bury Rivera’s proverbial body, lament his fall from grace( he was such a nice guy), and move on. Left behind are Rivera’s victims. I hope the victims sue.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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: Pastor Isaac Luna Valencia Accused of Sexually Molesting Minor Church Girl

Isaac Luna Valencia

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.

Isaac Luna-Valencia, pastor of an unnamed church in Las Vegas, Nevada, stands accused of sexually molesting a minor church girl.

Channel 8 reports:

A Las Vegas pastor has been accused of molesting a girl under the age of 14 during a boat trip to Lake Mohave, according to the arrest report.

Isaac Luna-Valencia, 48, is facing charges of two counts of lewdness with a child under the age of 14 and kidnapping of a minor.

On Dec. 5 the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department received a report from Child Protective Services that a child had disclosed that she was molested by her church pastor during a boat trip to Lake Mohave in June 2021, according to the arrest report.

In an interview with police, the victim said that on June 5, 2021, she went on a boat outing with Luna and several other people. After a couple of hours, everyone got off the boat and went to the shore. Lune and the victim were the only ones who stayed on the boat.

While on the water, Luna called the victim over to the side of the boat that was opposite the shoreline, causing the boat to conceal them both from others.

According to the arrest report, the victim said that his request made her feel hesitant and “weird” because she had never felt comfortable around Luna. However, she did what he asked and went over to him.

When the victim got close to Luna, she told police that he grabbed her causing her back to be against his chest and stomach. He then wrapped his arms around her and proceeded to molest her, the arrest report said.

The victim told police that she never stopped trying to break his grip and that he eventually let her go and pretended that nothing happened, police said.

Later that day, the victim was jumping off of the boat with two other people causing something “important” to fall off. At the end of the day, Luna realized that the item was missing and asked for someone to go back out to the lake with him to find it.

The victim was told to go with Luna despite saying she did not want to, the report said. Luna took the victim back out to the lake and stopped in between a couple of “mountains.”

While the victim was looking for the item, Luna stood up and came behind her. He whispered in her ear that she was the daughter that he “wished he had” or “never had”, the arrest report said.

According to police, the victim said that she felt that her uneasiness caused Luna to tighten his grip around her.

After a couple of minutes, Luna took a “quick” look around for the missing item and then went back to the others. The victim told police that she felt uncomfortable because he did not take much of an effort to look for the missing item.

According to the arrest report, the victim told multiple people about the incident including other members of the church and her legal guardian.

The victim told her legal guardian about the incident in September 2022. The legal guardian held a meeting and decided that the truth would come out and that they would get a sign from God that would cause her to truly believe the victim, the arrest report said.

On Dec. 2, a family friend who grew up with the victim found out about the incident. When he asked the victim’s legal guardian why he was not told sooner, she said that she believed they could figure the situation out on their own, the report said.

According to police, the guardian said that in the previous meeting, they concluded that there was no evidence that the molestation happened and they blamed the victim for not pulling out her phone to record Luna abusing her.

She also said that Luna was a “loveable guy”. When asked what solution they came up with at the meeting, she said that they decided that if it happened again, happened to anyone else, or “if there’s a sign from God,” they will know it happened for sure.

….

The family friend of the victim filed a report to CPS.

Why is the church unnamed? It sure sounds like this church is NOT a safe place for minors to be.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Pastor Glenn Collins Convicted of Numerous Sex Crimes

pastor glenn collins

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 2018, Glenn Collins, a former pastor, was charged with 142 (revised upward from 128) sex-related crimes, stemming from the alleged molestation of four minors. Collins stated at the time: “I’m not guilty of any of this stuff. I own property. I’m a pillar of the community and I don’t deserve this.”

The Fayette Observer reported:

A Fayetteville man charged with 128 sex-related offenses said today he was not guilty of allegedly molesting four juveniles.

“I’m not guilty of any of this stuff,” Glenn Tyrone Collins said during his first-appearance hearing in Cumberland County District Court. “I own property. I’m a pillar of the community and I don’t deserve this.”

Collins, 51, of the 5200 block of Sequoia Road, was charged Monday with 29 counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor, 22 counts of child abuse involving a sexual act, 15 counts of statutory rape or sex offense, nine counts of first-degree rape of a child, five counts each of first-degree sex offense and second-degree rape, three counts of second-degree sex offense, 36 counts of other sex-related offenses and two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.

The offenses are alleged to have occurred between 1996 and 2009, arrest warrants said.

Collins, clad in the jail-issued orange jumpsuit, stood with his hands behind him and professed his innocence after District Court Judge Toni King told him he faces up to life in prison if convicted.

District Attorney Billy West gave no information about the case. Collins is a pastor, West said after the hearing, but he did not know where.

While no news reports as to the disposition of Collins’ case are available, a North Carolina public records search reveals that Collins was convicted of numerous felony sex offenses with children on February 6, 2020. Collins was released from prison on March 7, 2021. Collins was sentenced to 55 months in prison, but only served 13 months. My question is this: why was Collins released from prison so soon? COVID?

glenn collins
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: Catholic School Teacher Samantha Brasses Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison for Sexting

samantha brasses

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, Samantha Brasses, a teacher at St. John Nepomuk Catholic School in Yukon, Oklahoma, was accused of unlawfully communicating with a minor by use of technology.

Fox-25 reported at the time:

On May 9, 2019, officers responded to 600 Garth Brooks Blvd. to a private Catholic school in reference to an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student.

Samantha Ann Brasses, 30, was arrested for unlawfully communicating with a minor by use of technology. Officers seized the victim’s phone and conducted forensic evidence to find the inappropriate conversations. Brasses and the 14-year-old victim reportedly communicated through Instagram, sharing inappropriate proposals, pictures, and referring to each other as “babe.”

In June 2021, Brasses pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Fox-25 reported:

A former Yukon Catholic School teacher is now a convicted sex offender for using Instagram to seek sex with a teenage student.

Samantha Ann Brasses, 32, pleaded guilty on June 18 to unlawful communication with minor using technology.

District Judge Jack D. McCurdy accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Brasses to 10 years in custody of Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections.

In her guilty plea, Brasses admitted in May 2019 she had used the Instagram messaging service “for the purpose of soliciting sexual conduct with a minor.”

The underage victim’s parents contacted school officials in May 2019 after they discovered the sexually charged text messages between Brasses and their 14-year-old son, according to a Yukon police report.

A forensic examination of the boy’s cell phone uncovered descriptive remarks about Brasses’ intentions with the alleged victim.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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: Christian Bible Study Leader Michael Wilson Accused of Rape

michael wilson

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

Michael Wilson, a Bible study teacher in Wenatchee, Washington, stands accused of rape and sexual molestation.

NCW Life Channel reported three weeks ago:

Police arrested a 69-year-old Wenatchee man on suspicion of rape Tuesday after two other men accused him of sexually molesting them while they were asleep or otherwise unable to consent.

Michael E. Wilson was identified in a Wenatchee police court affidavit as the leader of a Bible study group that met at his Sunnyslope home. The alleged victims were members of the study group, both men in their 20s.

In Chelan County Superior Court on Wednesday, deputy prosecutor Julia Hartnell told Judge Travis Brandt that Wilson cultivated and victimized young men “using the cover of the church.” She said her office is considering charges of second- and third-degree rape, as well as second-degree attempted rape.

….

Both alleged victims told police the incidents took place between 2020 and 2022. One man said in separate instances, Wilson fondled him while he was sleeping, and touched him inappropriately while giving massages. The other said Wilson initiated unwanted sexual contact in July 2022, while the alleged victim was drunk and unconscious.

Police said in an interview Tuesday with a Wenatchee detective, Wilson admitted to sexual contact with both men, but said the contact was consensual or inadvertent.

Wilson previously worked as a youth pastor in Wenatchee and in Pendleton, Oregon. Wenatchee School District records and his LinkedIn account also show he worked at Wenatchee High School as an academic intervention specialist from 2001 to 2013, when he became a service specialist with the Wenatchee Learns personalized education program. Communications director Diana Haglund said Wilson’s employment with the school district ended in 2019.

Since 2020 Wilson has conducted a faith-based self-help podcast series with Myke Merrill, a Rochester, New York Christian counselor.

Wilson has since been charged with seven felony sex offenses — second-degree rape, two counts of second-degree attempted rape, third-degree rape, indecent liberties, second-degree assault, and first-degree voyeurism — and two counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, a gross misdemeanor. Wilson posted a $750,000 bond.

Wilson’s bio states he is:

a Social Scientist and working professional in education for almost 20 years, along with 25 years in professional religious work. In both areas he was actively training, speaking, counseling, crisis counseling, leader and leadership development. He traveled around to places around the world including, Israel, Haiti, Central Mexico. He is a Father of 5 grown children. 

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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 Mark Heotzler Receives Lengthy Prison Sentence on Child Pornography Charges

mark heotzler

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.

Mark Heotzler, a youth pastor at Grace Chapel Community Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, pleaded no contest to four counts of depicting child sex acts on a digital file, three counts of criminal solicitation to depicting child sex acts on a digital file, disseminating explicit sex material of a minor, and sexual assault by a volunteer or employee of a nonprofit. Heotzler received a combined sentence of 7 years 6 months to 15 years in prison followed by 14 years probation on child pornography-related charges involving 10 victims, all younger than 18.

The Herald reports:

Mark William Heotzler, 30, Chambersburg, Franklin County, was sentenced this month to a combined sentence of 7 years 6 months to 15 years in state prison followed by 14 years probation on child pornography-related charges involving 10 victims, all younger than 18.

Heotzler pleaded no contest July 27 to four counts of depicting child sex acts on a digital file, three counts of criminal solicitation to depicting child sex acts on a digital file, disseminating explicit sex material of a minor, and sexual assault by a volunteer or employee of a nonprofit.

A pastor at Grace Chapel Community Church stated in August 2021 that Heotzler worked at Grace Chapel as a youth minister from May 2014 to April 2019. The church cooperated with the criminal investigation.

….

Heotzler was accused of crimes between 2015 and 2021, when state police said he made sexual advances toward minors and sent inappropriate images by text and over social media to juveniles, police said.

In the criminal complaint, police said Heotzler made sexual contact with a 15-year-old boy, by having the child remove all of his clothing and ride on Heotzler’s back.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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: Southern Baptist Student Pastor Timothy Jeltema Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Online Child Abuse

timothy jeltema

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 Jeltema, a student pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to four charges of online sexual abuse of a minor, including one charge of indecency with a child, one charge of sexual performance by a child, and two counts of online solicitation of a minor. Jeltema was sentenced to five years in prison. Champion Forest is a multisite Southern Baptist megachurch.

The Christian Post reports:

A Texas man who used to be a student minister at a Southern Baptist church has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to online sexual abuse of a child.

Timothy Jason Jeltema, 31, pled guilty on Nov. 17 to four charges of online sexual abuse of a minor, including one charge of indecency with a child, one charge of sexual performance by a child and two counts of online solicitation of a minor, reported the Baptist Press.

The charges were initially filed in 2018, one month after Jeltema was fired from Champion Forest Baptist Church in Harris County for an unrelated issue regarding communication with an 18 year old.

“Jeltema, a former minister to students at the North Klein campus of Champion Forest Baptist Church was terminated on May 15, 2018, the same day he was accused of and admitted to improper contact via social media with an 18-year-old member of our church,” stated the church, as reported by BP.

“Though no laws were known to have been broken, he was immediately dismissed for a clear violation of the church’s written code of conduct and his admission that he did not follow long-established Champion Forest regulations that pastors of students and adult volunteers must never communicate electronically one-on-one with students.”

In 2018, authorities arrested Jeltema after an unnamed minor accused him of sending her nude photos of himself over a period of several months and asked her to send him sexually explicit photos in return.

Authorities at the time believed that Jeltema had asked for photographs from around 20 to 25 minors between the ages of 14 and 17, reported ABC News 13 at the time of his arrest.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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According to Dr. David Tee, Sexually Abusing Children is a “Mistake,” Not a Crime

david thiessen
Derrick Thiessen is the tall man in the back row

Is sexually abusing children a crime?

Is raping children a crime?

Is sending minors sexually suggestive texts a crime?

Is using your position of power and authority to take sexual advantage of a person a crime?

Is sexually molesting children and teenagers a crime?

Is domestic violence a crime?

Is sex trafficking a crime?

Is transporting minors across a state line for the purpose of having sex with them a crime?

Is furnishing children with illicit drugs, alcohol, or pornography a crime?

Is stealing from your employer a crime?

Is using your employer’s money for personal use a crime?

Is filing fraudulent tax returns a crime?

If selling fake securities or bonds a crime?

Is stealing money from elderly people a crime?

Is murdering your spouse or your spouse’s lover a crime?

I suspect readers will say YES to every one of these questions. These are the stories that I cover in the Black Collar Crime Series — crimes by clerics, primarily Evangelicals. So far, I have published over 1,000 stories, with another thousand reported crimes sitting in a draft folder awaiting investigation. I have repeatedly explained WHY I write the Black Collar Crime Series, yet some Evangelicals refuse to see what is right in front of their faces: Evangelicalism has a sexual abuse problem that rivals that of the Roman Catholic Church.

One such Evangelical is Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen. Here’s what Thiessen had to say about the Black Collar Crime Series:

The owner of the BG website has had a series on Pastors and other church leaders committing crimes, making mistakes, and calling it Black Collar Crime. We have called that website out on this problem but that website won’t stop.

In fact, it is said that that website has about 1000+ more stories to post on preachers who either made a mistake, gave in to temptation, or purposefully committed some offense worthy of being arrested.

It is obvious that we do not like that list because it is redundant and really not that website’s business. We would like to know who appointed that owner to be the judge, jury, and executioner of those Christians who fail in their Christian lives.

Thiessen refuses to mention me by name or link to this site. His lack of ethics in this regard speaks volumes about the man.

Note how Thiessen describes the type of posts that are in the Black Collar Crime Series:

  • Preachers who make “mistakes”
  • Preachers who give into “temptation”
  • Preachers who commit some “offense” worthy of arrest

Note that Thiessen refuses to use the word “crime” or “sin.” Thiessen thinks the crimes mentioned above are “mistakes” or “failures”; that I am kicking these fine men of God while they are down. How dare I catalog and publicize their stories. What Thiessen never mentions is the victims. His only concern is the poor, “fallen” preachers. This is why Thiessen has repeatedly defended men such as Bill Gothard, Ravi Zacharias, and Bill Cosby. Worse, he even goes after the victims of these men’s crimes for not playing by his rules and adhering to his perverted form of “justice.

In October 2021, I wrote a post titled David Tee Defends Christian Rapists and Sexual Predators, calling out Thiessen for his defense of criminal preachers. Thiessen responded:

BG makes many mistakes here. First off, if it is in the Bible, it is not a corrupt biblical message. The corruptness comes in when people try to use their own interpretation to understand what God is saying.

If God said he will forgive and forget, then there is no one on this earth who can say otherwise. But remember, God does not just forgive, he punishes the wrongdoer as well. A fact that BG has forgotten. David & Bathsheba lost their first child because of their sins.

No, we do not defend any corrupt sin. Our article yesterday was merely saying that the Church is already aware of what is going on and we do not need unbelievers broadcasting the news to the 4 corners of the world.

Their action distorts justice, not aid it. While many people in the church do cover up sins by their fellow members, we never said that was the correct response to take.

….

Another distortion of what we do. First off, Ravi Zacharias is innocent. We and his son have proven that quite well. Secondly, Bill Cosby was railroaded and not given justice. All the allegations against him carried no physical evidence to support the false accusations.

We will speak up against injustice and not blindly accept hearsay evidence made by certain women and their supporters. To do so would be to pervert justice and violate the rules of law, evidence, and legal proceedings.

….

That is the name of the series we were alluding to. However, what good will it do to publish them on the internet? If he has these stories and he has the evidence, why doesn’t he report them to the police himself?

No one is stopping him from doing that but knowing his cowardly nature, BG just hides behind a keyboard thinking he is doing something good. The only thing we ask when he reports these crimes is that he has verifiable evidence, and the people get true justice.

If there is real evidence, not the made-up kind against Mr. Zacharias or Mr. Cosby, then we would support the criminal investigation. We would use the information to warn other pastors, etc., to get their sexual desires under control–we have done that on this website in years past.

….

We do not sweep anything under the rug but we are not rats either. We write what God wants us to write and then let him do the convicting. Any guilty pastor, etc., should be going to the police and confessing if they are guilty of such crimes.

We are not going to point fingers at anyone nor will we pile on someone who is down. These pastors, etc., are adults and they know God’s word so we know that they know what they should be doing. They do not need us humiliating them to get them to act. We are not their judge or executioner.

….

Victims need to follow the rules. Their word is not good enough. Too many innocent people have been convicted of crimes they did not commit and convicted on someone’s word alone.

The justice system is not perfect either and it makes a lot of mistakes but there are rules to follow and victims need to learn those rules if they want justice.

We do not change the rules because some victim feels dismissed or marginalized. Why have rules if they are not going to be followed? God has rules for justice that everyone, including many Christians, ignores, yet, God does not change his rules.

They are to be obeyed or people suffer, especially the innocent or the victim.

….

We support true justice and we support the rules. if people making the accusations are not following the rules, then they are just as guilty as the person or persons they accuse.

….

Probably not [supporting victims] as we often talk about sin in general. But we won’t support anyone who violates the rules of God and the justice system. Just because you are a victim does not mean you are telling the truth.

But then there is a myriad of people supporting those victims. We are supporting God’s way, trying to get justice done which means getting to the truth. Sometimes the truth is the victim is wrong, lying, or part of a conspiracy.

We have to get through the crap to make sure the right justice is done to the right person.

….

We are to defend the innocent but the innocent is not just on the victim’s side of the issue. BG fails to see this fact and it distorts his reaction to such crimes. We do not defend the dregs of Christian society, we are trying to make sure that Christians and others do not sin in their haste to blame, convict and punish anyone they can get their hands on.

We said that in our many posts concerning Mr. Zacharias. Sin in the pursuit of justice does not beget justice. It begets more crimes and more sin and that is wrong.

Thiessen’s thinking is not a deviation within Evangelicalism. Crimes by clergymen are routinely covered up and swept under the rug. Victims are routinely discredited, marginalized, and shamed. Even when preachers are arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison, they often find forgiveness and restoration after release. Throw in the sheer number of preachers who sexually take advantage of adult church members, and when found out say “I’m sorry” so three, six, or twelve months later they can be “restored,” and it is evident that Evangelicalism is a scandal-ridden enterprise. This should disgust Christians, but sadly way too many of them are like David Thiessen: quick to overlook, forgive, and move on. Left in the wake are countless victims harmed by so-called men of God they trusted and respected.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Update: Black Collar Crime: IFB Sunday School Teacher Jonathan Young Guilty of Rape, Sentenced to 87 Years in Prison

jonathan young

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 2018, Jonathan Young, a Sunday school teacher at Firstborn Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation — in Benson, North Carolina was accused of raping several church girls.  WRAL-5 reported that Young had been charged with “six charges of first-degree rape of a child, three charges of statutory rape, two charges of first-degree sexual offense, and two charges of indecent liberties with a child.” The charges against Young covered alleged crimes committed between 2004 and 2014.

Several former church members alleged church leaders knew about Young’s crimes and covered them up. The church denied doing so. Durwood “Kemp” Young, pastor of Firstborn Baptist, had this to say:

I’m heartbroken by it all because it’s unbelievable. I hate if anyone is hurt on either side but the young man is ruined now. I hate it and I don’t know what else to say about it.

What’s unbelievable is that Pastor Young’s first statement is about being concerned for the “young man” whose life has been “ruined.”  The victims aren’t even mentioned outside of Young “hating [the] hurt on either side.” What is this, a sporting event where you have two opposing teams?

Both the pastor and the perpetrator have the same last name. A reader with intimate knowledge of this church and the parties involved has told me that Durwood Young is Jonathan Young’s great-uncle. This reader also told me that other people in the church have, in the past, been accused of sexual improprieties.

In August 2022, a jury found Young guilty. Young was sentenced to a minimum of eighty-seven years in prison.

WITN reported:

WRAL reports that a jury found Jonathan Young, 38, of Benson, guilty on multiple counts of rape, sexual offense, and indecent liberties with children.

According to the district attorney’s office, the crimes involved three children, and most took place at Firstborn Baptist Church in Benson. The incidents occurred between 2003 and 2014, and the youngest victim was 7 years old when she was molested, investigators said.

At Young’s trial, the jury heard testimony from two additional witnesses who were sexually abused as young children.

Girls who grew up at the church alleged years of sexual abuse by Young, misconduct that some former church members say church leaders knew about but did nothing to stop.

Church leaders told WRAL News in 2018 there was no coverup.

“I’m heartbroken by it all because it’s unbelievable,” said Pastor Durwood Young. “I hate it and I don’t know what else to say about it.”

“The investigation was dropped as far as I know,” Durwood Young said. “That’s the way I understand it.”

The church leader described Jonathan Young as a “model employee.”

“I think you could go out here in the community and find people who were absolutely devastated,” Durwood Young said.

Durwood Young said he first heard about the allegations in 2014 from the sheriff’s office, but no charges were filed at that time

WRAL added:

One of his victims, who is now an adult, shared her story. WRAL News usually does not identify sexual assault victims, but Brianna Holland wanted to share her story publicly to help others.

Holland went to Firstborn Baptist Church in Benson every Sunday growing up – and for two years, starting with she was just 9 years old – a man she looked up to was inappropriately touching her. She kept the secret for years.

“I was confused and very scared,” she says.

Church and Sunday School should have been a safe haven for Holland – and two other children who were abused between 2003 and 2014. The youngest victim was just 7 years old when she was molested, investigators said.

“On the Sunday School bus, he would just initially rub my leg on bus,” she says.

The abuse grew worse with time.

“It was kissing, rubbing, grinding, things like that in the basement,” she says. “He had made multiple threats. ‘If you tell anyone, I will hurt you. I will hurt your family.'”

Four years after the abuse occurred, she got the courage to speak up. That was in 2017. One year later, Young was arrested and charged with sex crimes against three girls at the church, including Brianna Holland’s sister.

“It was hard and traumatizing,” she says. “I haven’t seen him since he was first arrested.”

During the trial Holland sat across from Young for two weeks, testifying in the case. His sentence of 87 years is long enough that he should never experience life outside of prison again.

“I was very happy, very content with what he got,” she says.

Please see Is Firstborn Baptist Church a Cult?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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