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 April 2022, Kevin Sykes, a Mormon youth leader in Springville, Utah, was arrested after police found child pornography on his smartphone.
A Utah County man was arrested Tuesday after police say they found child pornography on his cell phone.
According to court documents, an acquaintance of 54-year-old Kevin G. Sykes of Springville was helping Sykes with his phone when he saw an image of child pornography open in Sykes’ internet browser.
The witness reported this to police, who contacted Sykes and interviewed him.
After being told about the child pornography tip, Sykes claimed that the images were 3D art and did not portray anyone being victimized. He did admit that the images were graphic and depicted “young boys.” He said he did not have any interest in pornography containing real children.
Sykes consented to a search of his phone. During the search, investigators say they found several images of computer-animated pornography that showed “young boys from infant to teen age being sexually assaulted by other children or adults.”
Police say they also found real, non-animated images of child pornography on his phone, with both male and female victims estimated to be 8-16 years old. In addition, his internet history allegedly contained searches for explicit images of children.
A detective with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit met with Sykes on Tuesday and informed him of what they found. Sykes claimed he did not know how the images got onto his phone, but later said he sometimes saves images “for the thrill of the catch” without going back to look at them.
Sykes was booked on four second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Sykes told police he was a youth advisor in his local church, working with boys who are 11-14 years old. He said he has never been alone with any of the boys, nor has he had any sexual attraction or sexual contact with any of them.
One of his victims had this to say during an interview with Fox-13:
A family is sharing their story after a Springville man they knew was arrested for child pornography.
Kevin Sykes, who served as a youth leader with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faces four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor for explicit images of children that were found on his phone.
The man contacted FOX 13 News, but asked to remain anonymous while detailing he became a victim of Sykes.
“I was eight years old. I think it might have started when I was seven,” he said. “At first it was just like, you know, someone I knew, and then he started getting closer to me and my family.”
The victim talking said the events took place around 12 years ago and claimed Sykes was grooming him and slowly and methodically making his moves.
“He’d get my attention with something that would catch my eye,” the man said. “And then he would, you know, he would use that against me; like ‘Hey, if you want more candy, you can’t tell your mom, you can’t tell adults about this,’ and in my head, since I didn’t, I was young, I didn’t know it was wrong?”
The man’s mother also spoke with FOX 13 News.
“I was really glad to see that he was arrested, but it brought up a lot of emotions and I am very sad to see that he has continued to do this. He was very aggressive almost immediately, but at the same time very, very sly about all of it. It didn’t take very long though. It was just a few more months before I realized what he was doing.”
Sykes was arrested after a tip from his workplace lead Utah County Sheriff’s Office deputies to him.
“One of the big problems is that there are victims in those pictures, and finding where they are and getting them the help that they need is difficult,” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon.
When officers searched the phone, Sykes had several images of young boys ages 8-to-16.
More disturbing to officials and victims was Sykes’ position within his local church.
“We believe since he has had regular contact like that, that there may be some risk that there are victims who have been what we call contact victims out there,” said Cannon.
Amended criminal charges have been filed against a Springville man accused of sexually abusing a young boy for years and paying him thousands of dollars to not tell anyone.
Kevin G. Sykes, 54, was charged Friday in 4th District Court with two counts of attempted forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; plus sex abuse of a child, and eight counts of forcible sex abuse, second-degree felonies.
Earlier this month, Sykes, who police say was a youth leader at his church, was charged with four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony, after his boss found suspected child pornography on his phone, according to charging documents.
As the investigation progressed, however, police learned that Sykes had been sexually abusing a boy for several years beginning when the boy was 10, according to amended charges filed Friday. The boy told detectives that he believes Sykes “had molested him more than 100 times over the years.”
During one incident in 2019 when the boy told Sykes to stop because he did not like it, Sykes told him, “‘Too bad’ and, ‘I’m paying you money not to say anything,’ and kept doing it,” the charging documents allege.
The boy estimated that over the years, Sykes “has given him as much as $15,000 in cash, given him three cellphones, clothing, lots of nicotine vape cartridges and paid his cellphone bill” and told the boy that he couldn’t tell anyone about the alleged abuse “because (the boy) was being paid,” according to court documents.
Police say Sykes claimed to be “mentoring” the child at the time, which put Sykes in a position of trust over the boy. After his initial arrest, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said Sykes “has a position in his church where he works with young men and boys in the same age range as those depicted in the pictures found on his phone.”
On February 9, 2023, Sykes pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated sex abuse of a child and aggravated sex abuse of a child, first-degree felonies, plus three counts of forcible sexual abuse and four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies.
A former youth leader from Springville has admitted to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy after police say he paid the boy thousands of dollars not to tell anyone.
Kevin Sykes, 55, pleaded guilty Feb. 9 to attempted aggravated sex abuse of a child and aggravated sex abuse of a child, first-degree felonies, plus three counts of forcible sexual abuse and four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed charges in two of the three cases it addressed, and prosecutors also agreed to dismiss any cases against Sykes currently being investigated.
Sykes was charged with sexually abusing a young boy for years, beginning when the boy was 10 years old, and giving the boy as much as $15,000 to keep the abuse secret.
During one incident in 2019 when the boy told Sykes to stop because he did not like it, Sykes told him, “‘Too bad,’ and, ‘I’m paying you money not to say anything,’ and kept doing it,” charging documents state.
Police said Sykes was a youth leader in his church and interacted with boys the same age range as those found in the pornography on his phone. They also said Sykes claimed to be “mentoring” the child at the time, which put Sykes in a position of trust over the boy. The investigation into Sykes began after his boss reported suspected child pornography on his phone, charging documents say.
In a statement supporting his plea, Sykes admitted to knowingly possessing or viewing child pornography and to taking indecent liberties with someone over 14 to gratify sexual desire, and taking and attempting to take indecent liberties with a child to gratify sexual desire.
Sykes is scheduled to be sentenced on March 27.
Although the judge will determine the sentence, prosecutors and Sykes’s attorney agreed to recommend concurrent prison terms of 15 years to life and three years to life for the first-degree felony charges, and between one and 15 years in prison for the second-degree felonies.
Astoundingly, none of the media reports mentioned the Mormon stake Sykes was a part of.
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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