Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Reuben Chizor Convicted of Rape

reuben chizor

Reuben Chizor, pastor of Hope Restoration Ministries in Queens, New York was convicted last month of first-degree and second-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Chizor was given a 15-year prison sentence.

QNS reports:

A minister from Queens Village is now serving a 15-year prison term for raping two teenage girls in the basement of the church he formerly led, prosecutors announced on Tuesday.

Reuben Chizor, 56, the former head of the Hope Restoration Ministries based at his home on Springfield Boulevard, was convicted last month of first- and second-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

“The defendant took advantage of his position as a man of the cloth and the trust placed in him by his followers to satisfy his depraved desires,” Brown said in a statement. “Through manipulation and conniving control, he sexually abused his two young victims for nearly two years. What the defendant forced his victims to endure was horrendous, and as punishment, he now will be spending a lengthy term behind bars.”

According to the charges, on July 27, 2011, Chizor took the first victim, a then-14-year-old girl, to his residence in the basement of the church and raped her. The next month, on Aug. 22, 2011, he allegedly brought the victim’s then-12-year-old sister to the basement and sexually assaulted her.

Prosecutors said the two girls were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted over a two-year period. The girls confided in each other in July of 2015 that they had been raped by Chizor, and police were notified soon after.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Gregorio Martinez Convicted of Molesting Teenager

gregorio martinez

In February 2015, Evangelical pastor Gregorio Martinez was convicted of “aggravated criminal sexual contact, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.” Free on bond, Martinez fled the country, and a year later he was arrested in Honduras and returned to the United States for sentencing. Martinez was a deacon at Third Bethesda Pentecostal Church in Union City at the time he committed his crimes, and was co-pastor of Elohim Church in North Bergen when he was convicted. [That’s right, a church actually made Martinez pastor while he was on trial for criminal sexual contact, child abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child.]

NJ Advance Media reported in August 2016:

An evangelical preacher who has been on the run since a jury convicted him last year of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy has been arrested in Central America, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said Sunday.

Gregorio Martinez, whose flight from justice was chronicled in a special report by NJ Advance Media this spring, was detained in Danli, Honduras, on Tuesday, Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a statement.

Few details were immediately available, but Suarez said Honduran police made the arrest. The U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI had been involved in the hunt for Martinez. It was not clear if representatives of either agency were present when the fugitive was detained.

In February of last year, a jury took less than 30 minutes to convict Martinez of aggravated criminal sexual contact, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Free on $250,000 bail, the Jersey City resident failed to appear for a pre-sentencing review weeks later.

During the trial, Martinez was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old man. After his conviction, authorities charged him with sex crimes against two other men, also 19. Martinez knew the 13-year-old boy and the three alleged victims through churches in Hudson County.

“This was a tremendous effort by our dedicated detectives and prosecutors, who persisted with this case by following a money trail until Gregorio Martinez was detained Tuesday night in Honduras,” Suarez said. “This investigation involved the teamwork of several law enforcement partners and we are appreciative of the tenacious effort and dedication which led to his apprehension.”

The prosecutor said her office would be “exploring all options” to return Martinez to New Jersey, where he would face sentencing for the molestation conviction and stand trial on the charges related to the three other teens.

NJ Advance Media had traced Martinez this spring to Esteli, Nicaragua, where he had been living in a church compound. He is now accused by a parishioner of molesting a teenage boy there as well.

The news organization’s report kick-started the stalled criminal investigation, leading authorities to renew their search.

Martinez, a native of the Dominican Republic, had jumped from church to church in Hudson County’s Latino Pentecostal community. At the time of the sexual assault, he was a deacon at Third Bethesda Pentecostal Church in Union City.

He later served as co-pastor of Elohim Christian Church in Jersey City. Martinez’s father, Arturo, now serves as pastor there.

Two of Martinez’s close friends, a mother and son, knew the preacher was in Nicaragua but did not tell authorities. Jersey City residents Paula Martinez and Kelvin Martinez, who are not related to Gregorio Martinez, attended a lavish birthday party for the fugitive in Esteli last November, according to people who were present.

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The pastor of the church where Martinez had been staying in Nicaragua said he was unaware of the man’s past and that he had received a letter of recommendation for Martinez from a New Jersey pastor associated with the Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination.

That pastor, Verardo Acosta, acknowledged writing the letter after Martinez’s conviction but said he did not know about the criminal case.

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In December 2016, NJ Advance Media reported:

The last time Gregorio Martinez stepped foot in a Hudson County courtroom, a jury pronounced him guilty of molesting a 13-year-old boy.

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On Friday, 22 months after he vanished, the former Jersey City resident finally returned to a Hudson County courtroom, this time in handcuffs.

Superior Court Judge John A. Young Jr. ordered Martinez, 49, held without bail in connection with the February 2015 conviction on charges of aggravated criminal sexual contact, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Additionally, Young set bail at a combined $1 million cash on other counts alleging Martinez sexually assaulted three other people, all 19-year-old men he had met through churches in Hudson County.

“It’s obvious Mr. Martinez, but for the extraordinary effort of law enforcement to secure his return, had no intention of coming back,” Young said. “If given the opportunity, he would again leave.”

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In court, Assistant Prosecutor Linda Claude-Oben described Martinez’s extraordinary efforts to avoid capture, hopscotching from one Central American nation to the next.

When Honduran authorities detained him in the town of Danli, near the country’s southern border with Nicaragua, all 10 of his fingertips were bloody and bandaged, suggesting he intentionally tried to obliterate his fingerprints, Claude-Oben said.

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In a brief press conference after the hearing, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said her office, in conjunction with federal authorities, worked tirelessly to find Martinez, who has connections throughout Latin America because of previous evangelical missions.

She also credited NJ Advance Media, which reported in May that Martinez had been hiding in the city of Esteli, Nicaragua. The fugitive, with help from a New Jersey pastor, had secured a position at a church there.

Two reporters traveled to Esteli in late February but missed Martinez by little more than two weeks, according to residents of the community. It’s unclear if he went directly to Honduras.

Martinez had been living in a church compound affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination. Members of the congregation called him a charismatic figure who regularly preached at religious festivals and churches across the city, inspiring the faithful with spirited sing-song messages about heaven and hell.

He claimed he could cure illness and cast out demons. On many occasions, he spoke in tongues.

Today, Martinez’s sentencing was postponed until Monday. The Jersey Journal reports:

The sentencing of a North Hudson preacher and self-proclaimed exorcist who disappeared into Central America after being convicted of groping a 13-year-old boy was postponed Friday morning and rescheduled for next Monday.

On Feb. 25, 2015, Gregorio Martinez, of Jersey City, was found guilty of touching the 13-year-old’s genital area and kissing him on the lips inside a minivan in a North Bergen parking lot on June 10, 2012.

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Hudson TV adds: (link no longer active)

At least three others were also sexually assaulted by the 49-year-old.

Though Martinez was offered a 10-year sentence for pleading guilty to sexual assault in 2009 of a now-19-year-old man, he rejected the state’s plea offer in May.

Allegedly, the incidents took place at church events, even prayer services.

ABC News reports that Martinez faces five more years in jail for bail jumping.

Black Collar Crime: Episcopal Priest William Rian Adams Arrested Over Road Rage Incident

william rian adams

Williams Rian Adams, pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, North Carolina, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with “two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

The Charlotte Observer reports:

A 150-year-old church in the Fletcher community west of Charlotte was without a priest last week, after he was arrested in Florida for allegedly pointing a gun at another motorist during a road rage incident.

Episcopal priest William Rian Adams, 35, is facing two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for pointing the weapon at two people in a pickup truck late Wednesday on the Florida Turnpike near Palm City, reported the Palm Beach Post.

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The Florida Highway Patrol said Adams was driving a red Chevrolet Corvette when he attempted to brake check a Chevrolet Silverado pickup that he said was closely following his vehicle, reported the Palm Beach Post.

The driver of the pickup attempted to go around Adams’ vehicle, prompting Adams to allegedly point a Glock 22 at the pickup, reported the web site ChristianToday.com.

Adams told investigators that the pickup drew alongside him and the passenger screamed at him and threw a soda at his car, reported ChristianToday. He was arrested under a $15,000 bond, according to a web site for the Martin County jail. Adams listed the church as his employer, according to the jail records.

The Palm Beach Post reported a 24-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman from St. Cloud, Florida, were in the pickup truck.

Adams confirmed to troopers that he had a weapon, but said the gun was not loaded and had been kept under his passenger seat the entire time, reported the Asheville Citizens Times.

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Blaine Faircloth Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Teenager

blaine faircloth 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.

Blaine Faircloth Jr. (BJ), former youth pastor at Riverview Church of God, in Riverview, Michigan, has been charged with “two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.”

Michigan Live reports:

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, MI – A Tennessee man is charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl on a train during a church trip to Michigan five years ago.

Blaine Faircloth Jr., 33, appeared Thursday, July 6, in Pittsfield Township’s 14A-1 District Court, where Judge Elizabeth Hines set a preliminary examination for July 27. There was no other discussion about the case in court Thursday.

Faircloth is accused of using a position of authority as a youth pastor in a church group to coerce the teen into a sexual relationship, according to the warrant.

Faircloth was 28 years old at the time of the alleged offenses, which police say took place between July 17, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012 on a church trip, specifically on a train from Chicago to Dearborn. That’s according to Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Edward Price, who presented that information in testimony before a magistrate when swearing to the arrest warrant.

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“The sexual contact started originally on this trip overseas in Bangkok, and continued on a plane ride overseas to Chicago,” Price told the magistrate. “The sexual assault continued to take place on a train ride that started in Chicago .. with that train passing through Ann Arbor … ”

Price said Faircloth was a “person in a place of authority over this child, and fondled her multiple times during this train ride … on her genitals, and also her breast area.”

….

Court records show Faircloth was charged June 21 with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Faircloth most recently was living in Tennessee and was extradited to Michigan, according to the Megan Hawthorne, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office. The felony warrant lists Faircloth as a Southgate resident, however.

Faircloth was a youth minister at the Riverview Church of God, in Riverview, Michigan at the time of the alleged assault, according to Hawthorne.

The Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes Task Force investigated the incident because it’s alleged to have occurred on a train, Hawthorne added. It’s being investigated as an isolated incident, according to Hawthorne.

Faircloth, Jr. is a pastor’s son. His father pastors Dexter Lake Church — affiliated with the Church of God — in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Update

On January 9, 2018, John Counts, a reporter for MLive, reported:

A 33-year-old former Church of God youth pastor accused of sexually assaulting a girl on a mission trip had his trial postponed when he appeared in the Washtenaw County Trial Court Monday, Jan. 8.

Blaine Faircloth’s jury trial was initially set for Jan. 29. It’s now been rescheduled for May 14.

The postponement came at the request of Assistant Attorney General Robyn Liddell, who is prosecuting the case. Faircloth’s defense attorney, Marc Hart, did not object. Judge David Swartz granted the request.

Faircloth is charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The case dates back to 2012, when Faircloth was a 28-year-old youth pastor at Riverview Church of God in Riverview, Michigan.

He is accused of having sexual contact with a then-14-year-old girl on a church mission trip to Bangkok, Thailand. The woman, now 19, testified at a preliminary hearing that she had recently joined the church when she decided to go on the trip with Faircloth’s group.

She said she trusted him and looked up to him.

“I thought it would help me with my relationship with God,” she said. “I … looked at him like a youth pastor. I trusted him.”

The inappropriate contact started during a game of truth or dare in a Thailand hut, according to her testimony, when the youth pastor rubbed the 14-year-old’s back. The woman testified that she and Faircloth grew closer during the trip.

The criminal charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred on a train between Chicago and Dearborn on the way home from the trip, which is why the case is being prosecuted in Ann Arbor.

The woman testified that Faircloth told her repeatedly that he wanted to have sex with her in a train bathroom, and that he wanted to find a place where she could give him oral sex.

He touched her breasts and genitals throughout the train ride, she testified, while showing and reading the 14-year-old “raunchy” texts from his wife, she testified.

Faircloth’s wife found out about the relationship after the trip and told the girl to switch churches, according to the teen’s testimony.

….

Update October 17, 2018

Faircloth was acquitted of all charges.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Principal Thomas Mullins Arrested in Prostitution Sting

thomas mullins

Thomas Mullins, principal at First Baptist School of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, was arrested Wednesday and charged with soliciting prostitution.

Paul Bowers, a reporter for The Post and Courier, writes:

The principal at First Baptist School of Charleston has resigned following his arrest on a charge of soliciting prostitution Wednesday afternoon.

Head of School Thomas Mullins, 67, of Murray Drive in Hanahan, had served as the leader of the private downtown school since 2002. He was previously a principal at North Charleston High.

“Our hearts are united in prayer for Mr. Mullins and his family,” First Baptist School leaders said in an email to parents. “The Board will be announcing plans for the future leadership of the school soon. In the meantime, the Board is unanimous in expressing appreciation to Tommy Mullins for his outstanding service to Charleston County Schools for most of his career and to First Baptist School since 2002.”

According to an arrest report from the North Charleston Police Department, an undercover officer was posing as a prostitute as part of a sting operation around 4:10 p.m. Wednesday and made contact with Mullins in his car near the intersection of Remount Road and Buskirk Avenue.

The report states that officers arrested Mullins on a prostitution charge when he solicited sex from the officer for money. Police later found whisky in an open cup in the car’s console and charged Mullins with an open container violation.

Reached by phone Friday, First Baptist Church Pastor Marshall Blalock said Mullins’ arrest came as a shock to school leaders and that he was “heartbroken” for Mullins.

The email to parents, which he co-signed with First Baptist School Board Chair D. Harrison Carter, credited Mullins with piloting dual-credit courses at the school, expanding enrollment, building a new James Island campus, promoting excellence in athletics and promoting racial diversity.

“First Baptist School is grateful for the many contributions Tommy Mullins has made to bless our students and their families over these past fifteen years,” the statement said. “Now as he takes the next steps in his life, the First Baptist family extends love and support to the Mullins family. We want to assure our alumni, parents, students, faculty, and church of the continuing strength of First Baptist School and our commitment to providing a Christian education in an environment which glorifies God.”

Black Collar Crime: Youth Ministry Volunteer Nicholas Lies Charged With Sexually Assaulting Church Teen

nicholas lies

Nicholas Lies, a youth ministry volunteer at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been charged with “five counts of sexual assault after allegedly engaging in sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl at least 14 times.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

A former Mt. Lebanon youth ministry mentor has been charged with five counts of sexual assault after allegedly engaging in sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl at least 14 times.

Nicholas Lies, 21, was serving as a volunteer with Southminster Presbyterian Church on Washington Road when he began inappropriate relations with an underage member of the church, according to a criminal complaint.

He is accused of taking the girl to a park after church events 12 times during a three-week period from April to May 2016, and twice again in August. At the park, the complaint alleges, he engaged in fondling and requested sexual acts from the girl, the severity of which escalated as time went on.

Last week, the girl alerted the youth director at the church, who in turn reported it to Allegheny County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, said the Rev. Daniel B. Merry, Southminster’s pastor. The county’s CYF office then contacted police.

….

The criminal complaint stated that Mr. Lies admitted to some of the alleged crimes and provided a written statement to police June 29.

He has been charged with one count each of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors, endangering welfare of children and indecent assault. A preliminary hearing will be held July 12.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Lewis Clemons Accused of Sexual Abuse

lewis clemons

Lewis Clemons, apostle and pastor of Kingdom Awareness Ministries International in Columbus, Georgia, stands accused of sexually abusing several church women.

Chuck Williams, a reporter for The Telegraph reports:

A Columbus woman has accused a longtime local minister of years of sexual abuse that started in 2002 when she was 15, according to a lawsuit filed in Muscogee County Superior Court last month.

The civil suit was filed against Pastor Lewis Clemons, Church of God in Christ Inc., Wynnton Road Ministries Church of God in Christ, Inc., and five other parties that were not named. Clemons is currently senior pastor at Kingdom Awareness Ministries, where his title is apostle.

Lequita Jackson, who started attending Clemons’ church when she was 14 and did not leave it until last month, alleges that Clemons led her into “inappropriate sexual contact.” She said Clemons used his position of leadership in the church to make her “do what he wanted and to justify his actions.”

Jackson, her husband of five years Jonathan Jackson, her attorney Jeb Butler of the Atlanta firm Butler/Tobin and Maria Herlth of the Columbus Sexual Assault Support Center sat down for an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer Wednesday morning to discuss the lawsuit and allegations.

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Jackson, now in her 30s, and her husband attended Kingdom Awareness Ministries until last month when they left the church. In addition to being members and having met at the church, they both held volunteer ministry positions in the church, they said.

Jackson said one of the reasons she is coming forward now is that she recently learned “about seven other women” were in relationships with Clemons.

“When I found out there were other victims — all that time I thought I was the only victim and it was an isolated occurrence — I wanted to do what I could to stop him,” Jackson said. “Part of that included speaking out about what had happened to me and making sure that other people knew what he had done and to make it public knowledge.”

Her attorney said he applauded Jackson for stepping forward. “Clemons has taken something that can never be given back,” Butler said. “But when Lequita found out this had happened to others in her church, she was courageous enough to ask, and I am honored enough to help her in her goal to make sure this never happens ever again.”

There is a reason the suit was filed in Superior Court and not State Court, Butler said.

“We seek an order from the court barring Clemons from ever being a pastor or church official again,” Butler said.

The suit claims, “Clemon’s long-term pattern of abuse, spanning many years and many victims, shows as long as he is able to remain a pastor or church leader, he will sexually abuse those who accept him as a religious leader.”

The inappropriate sexual contact started at Faith Unlimited Ministries, a church Clemons led on Floyd Road in Columbus, according to the suit. At 14, the suit claims, Jackson began having “sexual contact” with the music director at Faith Unlimited Ministries. That music director is not named in the lawsuit.

Jackson sought help from Clemons to end the sexual contact, according to the suit. In Wednesday’s interview, Jackson said criminal charges were filed in 2002 against the music director, but the case was not prosecuted when she “recanted” her story.

Clemons then began to have “inappropriate sexual contact” with her, Jackson’s suit claims.

“Defendant Clemons subjected Plaintiff to a practice that he called ‘body anointing’ in which he took off Plaintiff’s clothes and rubbed her body with oil,” according to the suit. “… Defendant Clemons told the Plaintiff his actions were authorized by the Bible.”

The suit alleges that the victim and Clemons had sexual intercourse.

The sexual relationship with Clemons continued from 2002 to about 2009, Jackson said. Jackson said she did not tell anyone at the church of the relationship with Clemons.

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WRBL added:

The plaintiff, Lequita Jackson, accuses the pastor of child molestation, sexual battery, and even rape. It’s a position neither Jackson, 30, nor another alleged victim, Lakisha Smith, expected to be in.

“He was a child molester,” Jackson said. “He was a sexual predator who needed to be stopped. I just kind of accepted it at that age. That was what would help me come to terms with what was happening.”

Jackson claims what started as simple talks in the car when she was 15 escalated in to kisses, caresses and even sexual intercourse. Jackson adds the pastor would perform what he called “body anointings,” rubbing oil all over her body. Jackson says Clemons impregnated her twice, posed as her guardian, and paid for two abortions. According to her revelation, Apostle Clemons would cite and use scriptures in the Bible to justify these alleged acts.

“He misinterpreted what God originally put into the scriptures to use it to his benefit.,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s attorney says Clemons used about five different churches, “attacking vulnerable women.” Jackson was married for five years and had two kids before she even told her husband about the alleged abuse. The women tell News 3 Clemons was careful not to perfoorm any “body anointings” on men, as well as not to have his wife around during specific meetings in his church office.

“A lot of the times the victims are forgotten about,” Smith said.

Smith, 37, says it’s been a long uphill battle to rebuild personally, emotionally, and spiritually. Smith believes sexual abuse in church happens a lot more often than people realize.

“Victims feel like they have no proof,” Smith said. “It’ll be their word against whoever is sexually abusing them.”

Smith says she was taking care of her disabled son and her mother, a two-time cancer survivor during her alleged assault in 2015. Smith believes speaking out may help other women. She says during this ordeal, she gave way to doubt and her faith fell on rocky soil.

“I’ve questioned my knowledge of the Bible and God’s Word,” Smith said. “And I feel like honestly, I have to start over. He needs to be held accountable for his actions, There are lives and souls at stake.”

News 3 spoke with Apostle Clemons; however, when we asked him about any possible allegations regarding sexual assault or abuse, he hung up the phone.

“He could explain it away in the comfort of the church walls,” Jackson said. “But if he had to explain it to the public, he could not. I am not surprised he wasn’t willing to explain himself. My only hope is that he does recognize the error of his ways, and that he does do something about it before it’s too late.”

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Black Collar Crime: Church Bus Driver Accused of Raping Girl in Church Basement

edwin burgess

Edwin Burgess, a bus driver for Central Christian Church in Covington, Tennessee, stands accused of raping a ten-year-old girl in the church’s basement

The Christian Post reports:

A member of a small church in Covington, Tennessee, who was also reported to be the driver of the church’s bus, was arrested and charged with raping a 10-year-old girl inside the church’s basement.

In an affidavit cited by FOX 13, Covington Police allege that 55-year-old Central Christian Church driver Edwin Burgess performed a sexual act on the 10-year-old girl and forced her to touch him inappropriately.

A warrant was issued for Edwin Burgess’ arrest on Wednesday afternoon. Burgess, 55, lives in Covington and was a bus driver for the Central Christian Church.

Police say a mother called the police department after her 9-year-old daughter told her, “I need to tell you something.”

The 9-year-old girl, who was not physically assaulted, said Burgess’ alleged victim told her what happened.

Police who investigated the story said the 10-year-old told them Burgess asked her and another girl to go to the bathroom at Central Christian Church and tried to get them to play truth or dare.

Burgess dared the girls to urinate in front of him in a sink while he watched and also dared them to ride naked on the bus.

“No, because my mother would not like that,” the girl replied.

Burgess allegedly responded, “No one will tell, plus the bus windows are dark so no one will see.”

After the truth or dare, Burgess was allegedly alone in the church basement with a second 10-year-old victim who told police he started raping her around New Years 2017. She said the last time he raped her was about June 18 after church.

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Jere Mason, Burgess’ attorney, insisted in a statement that his client is innocent and would be fighting the allegations “vigorously.”

“Edwin Burgess was extremely surprised and deeply saddened to learn of these charges being levied against him. He strongly maintains his innocence and plans to vigorously fight these charges in a court of law. Due to the type of charges levied against him it is hard for the public to remember that Edwin is innocent unless proven guilty,” Mason said.

“In today’s day and age with the advent of social media a person charged with these crimes is often convicted in the court of public opinion before all the facts of the case are brought to light. The attorneys of Gray Huffman Butler stand ready to seek justice for Edwin in this difficult time.”

Black Collar Crime: Two Evangelical Pastors Arrested and Charged with Sex Trafficking

zubin parakh and jason kennedy

Jason Kennedy, children’s ministry pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and Zubin Parakh, the creative pastor for Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, were arrested last year on charges on human trafficking.

Channel 8-Knoxville reports:

After a three-day investigation, nearly two dozen men were arrested on charges related to human trafficking, including Jason Evan Kennedy, a pastor of children’s ministry at Grace Baptist in Karns.

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Church leaders said Kennedy was hired two-and-a-half years ago. Church administrators got a background check on Kennedy and it turned up with no issues at the time. It did not indicate any previous problems. Church leaders believed Kennedy was a good fit because he listed a children’s pastor as a reference on his application. That pastor affirmed Kennedy had no issues in his background.

“We are praying for his family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them,” read the final statement in the church’s release.

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According to a police report, Kennedy responded to a Backpage.com ad via text message. The report says Kennedy was made aware that there would be two girls present, one was 15 years old. He negotiated $100 for a half hour of sex with both girls.

He was told to go to a gas station on Merchants Road for further instructions. Then he received instructions to go to a hotel room where the girls were.

The report says he stated he wanted to have sex with both girls he thought were inside. He put the agreed upon $100 on the counter. He removed his pants and then law enforcement took him into custody.

“Our work is not finished. We want to make sure there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us. We want anyone answering an ad for sex to think that a TBI agent and a Knoxville Police officer may be on the other end of that line,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn.

Kennedy is charged with human trafficking and patronizing prostitution.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn says another man, Zubin Parakh, responded to ads specifically indicating he was looking for underage girls to have sex with. Parakh was listed as a “Creative Pastor” for Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge.

Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and officers with the Knoxville Police Department worked together to arrest or cite 32 people on charges related to human trafficking. Twenty-three of those arrests were of men trying to buy sex from a prostitute.

“These are men from our community. They include an engineer, a volunteer firefighter, a landscaper, a student. These are people we work with and live with,” said Gwyn.

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During the investigation, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com, including an ad posing as an underage girl. Three-hundred people made contact in relation to those ads. More than two dozen people made contact in relation to the ad of the agents posed as an underage girl.

“What so many people in our community don’t quite understand is that human trafficking is a demand driven crime. And that demand comes from every single part of our society, including those parts that we’d all like to believe are not part of the problem,” said Trudell.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Jay Singleton Charged With Attempted Child Molestation

homer jay singleton

Jay Singleton, former youth pastor at Edgewood Assembly of God in Columbus, Georgia, was arrested Wednesday and charged with “criminal attempt child molestation, criminal attempt sodomy, and driving with a suspended license.”

WTVM-9 reports:

Columbus police have arrested a former youth pastor at Edgewood Assembly of God on several charges including child molestation and sodomy.

Homer Singleton, 45, known as Jay, was arrested on Wednesday, June 28 around noon after the Columbus Police Department’s Special Victims Unit was investigating an individual for attempted aggravated child molestation. Singleton was arrested near the area of Broadway and 8th St.

The pastor of Edgewood Assembly of God, Charles Hayes, released the following statement concerning this incident:

Two years ago, he was on staff here and left Edgewood Assembly of God. My heart goes out to the family. They need prayer. Jay needs prayer.

Singleton was recently a volunteer worker with the children’s ministry at The Refuge Church, which is a satellite of North Highland.

Pastor Robert French with the Refuge Church sent us the following statement:

We are saddened about the alleged situation here. We will continue to pray for the family, his wife and his son. The church is here to support them during this horrible situation. As a church, we will do everything we can to provide the necessary support.

….

The former youth pastor was charged with criminal attempt child molestation, criminal attempt sodomy and driving with a suspended license.

….

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Andre Leaphart Charged With Knowingly Transmitting a STD

andre leaphart

Andre Leaphart, an associate pastor at Fellowship United Church of Christ in Chesapeake, Virginia, was charged yesterday with “sexual battery with the intent to transmit infection.”

Channel 3 reports:

A Newport News man has been charged with sexual battery with the intent to transmit infection.

News 3 has learned from church officials that 40 year-old Andre Leaphart is an Associate Pastor at the Fellowship United Church of Christ in Chesapeake.

Police said on April 12 a Hampton man told authorities that he contracted a sexually transmitted disease from the Leaphart. The victim said the suspect knew he was infected.

After a two month long investigation, Leaphart was arrested Tuesday.

News 3 spoke to Leaphart’s relatives who said he has always been honest about his medical situation with those he was close to and they don’t believe the accusations.

They said Leaphart is always going out of his way for others and they think there is more to this story that has not been exposed.

 

Black Collar Crime: Former Evangelical Pastor Michael Trosclair and Wife Party with Infant Daughter at Indiana Bar

michael trosclair

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.

Former Pastor Michael Trosclair and his wife Shari Treba were arrested recently ans charged with “neglect of a dependent in a situation that endangers the dependent” and public intoxication.

The Birmingham Reporter reports:

A mom and dad from Alabama were arrested after allegedly taking their infant daughter to party at an Indiana bar — as witnesses said the mother drank and smoked while breastfeeding her child.

Michael Trosclair, 45 and Shari Treba, 42, were taken into custody and charged with neglect of a dependent in a situation that endangers the dependent. They were also hit with a public intoxication charge.

“Partying was more important than their child,” a detective wrote in an affidavit. The suspects reportedly were in town for a work conference. Trosclair’s LinkedIn profile shows he’s a former senior pastor, AL.com noted.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers were dispatched to the Wild Beaver Saloon early Friday morning following reports of a woman asking customers for beer, according to the probable cause affidavit obtained by AL.com.

Police confronted Treba while she was standing near a stroller. When police asked her who the baby belonged to, she said the baby girl was hers. Police said that Treba’s “breath and person” smelled like alcohol. She allegedly had to be asked several times who she was and where she was from.

A witness at the bar told the officer that Treba had been offering sex to individuals who would go inside the establishment and get her a beer. The witness also told police that he had watched Treba drink while simultaneously breastfeeding. Other witnesses told police that Treba had previously chained the stroller – with the baby still in it – to a post outside the bar and went inside to buy a drink.

Treba allegedly informed police that she was with her husband and friends from his job.

Her breath alcohol content at the time of her arrest was .193.

Trosclair allegedly became angry after Treba was confronted by police. “Mr. Trosclair became belligerent and started demanding to talk to a lawyer and telling us we weren’t going to do anything,” according to the affidavit. “It was at this time, due to Mr. Trosclair’s behavior, I put him in cuffs for fear he may fight us with the baby right there.”

The baby would be checked out by medics, officers told Treba. They also called Child Protective Services and a child abuse investigator to the location at the time of the incident.

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One report states that Trosclair was at one time the pastor of Turning Point Church in Theodore, Alabama. According to Charisma News:

Trosclair pastored Turning Point Church, a congregation in Theodore, Alabama, for four years. He now works for insurance company Primerica.

According to The Christian Post:

Three years after parting ways with the United Pentecostal Church International, Michael Trosclair, a former senior pastor at Turning Point Church in Theodore, Alabama, was arrested at a bar along with his wife and their infant daughter in tow.

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An official with the UPCI headquarters in Weldon Spring, Missouri, confirmed with The Christian Post Thursday that Trosclair was once a licensed minister with the organization but has not been affiliated with them for about three years.

She declined say for how long he was an active minister.

A February 28, 2018 Christian Post news report states that Michael Trosclair and wife Shari Treba the were found not guilty:

A former United Pentecostal Church pastor and his wife, who were arrested at a bar in Indiana last summer for allegedly being drunk while neglecting their infant daughter, have been found not guilty of the charges.

“After 263 days of silence and public shame, we are grateful for the verdict of ‘not guilty.’ This verdict contributes to our continued healing from the loss and emotional pain caused by this incident. We now look forward to expressing the true story of who we are and what happened,” Michael Trosclair, a former senior pastor at Turning Point Church in Theodore, Alabama, and his wife, Shari Tremba, said in a joint statement released by their lawyer Marc Lopez of Indianapolis.

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Lopez said the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office filed felony charges on June 19, 2017, against the couple, but after deliberating for less than 20 minutes last week an Indianapolis jury found them “not guilty” of all crimes charged.

“I am so happy at the verdict in this case. And I want to thank Michael Trosclair for putting his faith into me and my law firm in representing him. When Michael hired me, he told me he was going to fight this the entire way. And we did,” Lopez said.

Witness testimony showed that while Trosclair and Tremba were in Indianapolis for a financial industry convention they were accompanied by two caretakers who were charged with the care of their 7-month-old as they networked with other convention attendees.

On the night of their arrest, the group had dinner, participated in convention activities, and took a walking tour of Indianapolis, the evidence showed. While walking past a downtown bar, Trosclair went inside to greet a business partner while his 7-month-old daughter stayed outside the bar with Tremba and the two other adult caretakers.

While Tremba waited outside with the 7-month-old child, a patron of the bar called 911 stating he had seen her being neglectful of the child.

Witness testimony at the trial, however, contradicted the allegations of the 911 caller, noting that the only thing Tremba did was consume one 10-ounce beer. The person who gave her the beer testified that he did so about 10 minutes before the police arrived. He also said Tremba was not intoxicated.

When police officers arrived on the scene and informed Tremba to get her husband and that her daughter would be taken to the hospital to be evaluated she became upset. When her husband arrived and learned what was happening he became upset as well and they were both arrested.

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