Seven months ago, Ken Adkins, pastor of Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in Brunswick, Georgia was arrested and charged with “three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of influencing a witness.” Adkins defense rests not on his innocence, but his contention that the victim was an adult when he sexually took advantage of them. Right victim, wrong year.
Pastor Ken Adkins, who has been in a Glynn County jail for seven months on charges he molested a teenage boy six years ago, turned down a plea deal Friday.
Prosecutors offered Adkins a sentence of five to 30 years if he were to plead guilty to child molestation, but his defense team turned it down. Adkins has said he is innocent of all charges.
Adkins, 56, a pastor of the Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship, was denied bond in September on child-molestation charges, and indicted by the Glynn County grand jury last month on three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of influencing a witness.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a young man told investigators that Adkins molested him in 2010 when he was a member of Adkins’ church as a boy younger than 16.
Prosecutors said they not only have explicit text messages and photos sent from Adkins phone, they also have a young woman’s testimony in which she makes allegations of sex crimes. The woman, who was in the youth ministry at Adkins’ church at the time, said that Adkins watched her and a teenage boy have sex in a Brunswick hotel several years ago.
The woman says after the incident, Adkins touched her inappropriately.
Adkins’ attorney, Kevin Gough, argued that the alleged incident didn’t take place in 2009, but instead a few years later, when the boy called a victim in the case was an adult.
“The charges set forth in the indictment allege that the crimes took place when he was under the age of 16, so the timeline is very important to this,” Gough said. “He has maintained his innocence, and we look forward to his day in court.”
A judge said he is also taking into consideration the account of a police officer, who interviewed the victim and the young woman and Adkins during his investigation, before he makes a ruling on what evidence will be admissible when the trial begins April 3.
In Georgia, aggravated child abuse is considered a capital crime. While the death penalty is not considered likely, Adkins could face up to life in prison if convicted.
You might remember that Adkins is one of the pastors who said the Pulse Club victims got exactly what they deserved.
James Rankin, a pastor associated with Bellevue Baptist Church in Hurst, Texas has been charged with the possession of child pornography. The Star-Telegram reports:
A Hurst associate pastor faces a child pornography charge after he took his computer to a Best Buy store, according to a Hurst Police Department news release.
Store employees called police about 8:40 p.m. Thursday after finding what appeared to be child pornography on a customer’s computer, according to the news release. After investigating, police arrested and charged the owner of the computer, 78-year-old James Rankin, with possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony. Bond was set at $5,000.
The news release said Rankin is an associate pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Hurst, which lists him as a staff member on its website.
James was a retired pastor before being called to his present ministry. He served churches in Tennessee, Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas. He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1980. He has degrees in Bible, Theology, Counseling, Church Administration and Communication.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2012. They have two children and two grandchildren. They presently live in Hurst.
James is a lifelong ferroequinologist (model railroader).
Antonio Jones, 47, was arrested March 17. Jones, who has no middle name listed, was released on bond Tuesday.
Jones is listed as founder of Kingdom Harvest Church International in northwest Roanoke on the church’s Facebook page, which describes Kingdom Harvest as “a multi-cultural, non-denominational church” with more than 150 members.
A call to the church Thursday afternoon was not returned, and no one answered the door there.
According to Roanoke Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court records, the offenses are alleged to have occurred against the first subject sometime between 2008 and 2010, when the juvenile would have been younger than 13.
Jones also is accused of committing indecent liberties against that subject.
The second case is alleged to have occurred between 2009 and 2011, involving someone in their early teens.
A Roanoke pastor is out of jail and has the full support of his church.
Antonio Jones was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct against underage family members. Those claims date back to 2008.
Jones was released after posting a $5,000 bond on Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, several members of Jones’ church told us they were shocked at the charges.
Antonio Jones founded Kingdom Harvest Church International in 2007, according to the church Facebook page.
This story has gotten traction online with a number of members coming to Jones’ defense, calling him a “Man of God” and saying the Kingdom Harvest church family will get through this. The church posted a status earlier today which read, “UNITED WE STAND”
One member, who didn’t wish to be identified or shown on camera told WDBJ7, “This is church business that we doing here and the case is going to be city and court business. All we have to do is wait for the trial to end and other than that he hasn’t been convicted, it’s a trial.”
A Roanoke pastor accused of sexually assaulting two juveniles saw the charges against him certified on Friday, and the case will now go before a grand jury. Antonio Jones, 48, was arrested March 17 and is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of committing indecent liberties. At a preliminary hearing on Friday, both of his accusers gave testimony outlining their claims against him. The Roanoke Times does not identify people who report sexual assaults.
The offenses are alleged to have occurred separately between 2008 and 2011, when the first subject was about 12 years old and the second was a young teen. The two complainants know each other but said they did not tell anyone about their allegations for several years until they decided to speak to police in the summer and fall of 2016. Jones and his defense attorney, Jonathan Kurtin, did not present any evidence at the hearing. In cross-examining the two witnesses, Kurtin pressed them for additional details and time frames, but they often said they were unable to be more specific. Roanoke Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Frank Rogers heard testimony from the two complainants for about an hour before deciding he found probable cause to certify all three charges. The cases will now be evaluated by a grand jury, likely in October.
The pastor of a Columbia church and a chaplain for local police has been charged with criminal domestic violence.
Michael Henry Baker, 55, was booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on Wednesday and charged with third-degree criminal domestic violence.
Baker is the pastor of Greater St. Luke Baptist Church on Farrow Road. He served as a chaplain for both the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia Police Department but, since his charge, has been relieved of his duties by both agencies, spokespeople said.
Baker’s charge comes after an officer responded to two incidents within the past week between Baker and his wife, according to incident reports provided by the sheriff’s department.
On March 16, a deputy responded to the couple’s home on Hunt Club Road just before 10 p.m. According to the report, Baker’s wife said he was keeping her phone from her. When his wife repeatedly asked him to give it to her, he pushed her to the floor twice, causing her to hit her head and injure her hand, she told the officer.
His wife went to a neighbor’s house to call 911 and later filled out a criminal domestic violence statement but “didn’t want Mr. Baker to go to jail,” the report said.
And on March 20, a deputy again arrived at the home, where Baker was sitting in his wife’s car preventing her from leaving, according to the incident report. His wife said she had come to pick up some of her belongings and leave but Baker wouldn’t let her. She also said that Baker had changed the locks on the doors and hadn’t given her a new key to the house, the report said.
Pastor Michael H. Baker delivers a profound impact to the Kingdom of God. He inherently inspires and insistently motivates others to operate in a spirit of excellence, while using their gifts and talents for the Glory of God.
Pastor Baker received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Florida Theological Seminary and has attended Oxford University in England in pursuit of obtaining a Masters of Divinity.
A true Man of God, Pastor Baker’s national ministry and international involvement are consistent in a community based work that reaches the heart of God’s people. Presently, he is the Senior Pastor of the Greater St. Luke Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the Executive Director of the Light of The World Economic Community Development Corporation. This non-profit corporation assists in sponsoring and promoting religious, educational and community events.
Since advancing to South Carolina, this visionary leader is involved with a wide variety of organizations including, but not limited to, the NAACP, The South Carolina Baptist Congress of Christian Education, co-founder of The Midlands Baptist Ministerial Alliance, Richland County Sheriff’s Department Chaplains Division and former member of the 100 Black Men of Greater Columbia. He is the founder of the Annual Pastor’s Cup Golf Tournament and serves on the Executive Board of the National Action Network under the leadership of Reverend Al Sharpton and is a co-sponsor of the A&M Leadership Conference.
Pastor Baker has a zest and zeal for our youth and the community. He can be quoted in saying “My concern is for our children. Pastor Baker founded the Greater Columbia Holistic Enrichment Development Summer Program that offers academic, music and computer training. Pastor Baker also served as the Chairman for the first Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance City Wide Revival. This revival brought people of all denominations together as well as helped to eradicate the debt of two families victimized by gang violence. As a community leader, every year a portion of the proceeds from the Pastor’s Cup Golf Tournament are used to educate and empower the homeless in our community.
His passion for empowerment and education birthed numerous classes at Greater St. Luke Baptist Church. Various classes on Christian Education are offered in Greater St. Luke’s new state of the art 2.5 million dollar M. L. Smith Community Development Center.
Pastor Baker is a nationally known Evangelist and the renowned Author of “How to Build Without Borrowing”, which he presently teaches as a course of study during the National Baptist Convention’s Congress of Christian Education. Pastor Baker has served on the National Baptist Convention’s Late Night Service Staff. He is a lecturer and a former instructor in the Gethsemane Baptist Association.
Most importantly, Pastor Baker is a family man, a native of Jacksonville, Florida and the son of the late Reverend Dr. and Mrs. Henry L. Baker. He is married to the former Min. Darlene Hunter, a devoted father to Michael and Michelle and a loving grandfather of two grandchildren.
Hien Minh Nguyen, former pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in San Jose, California and the director of the Vietnamese Catholic Center was convicted Tuesday of bank fraud. The Mercury News reports:
Prosecutors said Nguyen received donations from parishioners at St. Patrick’s, some of which he deposited into his bank account, and also signed checks from the VCC’s bank accounts to pay his expenses.
In addition, Nguyen deposited 14 separate checks made payable to the VCC into his bank account.
Nguyen, who was charged with 14 counts of bank fraud in December 2015, pleaded guilty on Tuesday. In August 2016, he also pleaded guilty to four counts of tax evasion.
The maximum penalty for bank fraud is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Tax evasion carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A Catholic Priest from the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, California has pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Father Hien Minh Nguyen, age 56, admitted that over a period of four years, he stole money from his parishioners. He took the money parishioners had donated to the Diocese for himself. And, from 2008 through 2011, he willfully evaded paying income taxes on it.
Although the money was for the church, Father Nguyen admitted that he deposited it into his personal bank account. Then, he did not tell his income tax return preparer about it. He did not keep records of the donations he stole, and he filed false income tax returns that did not report the money. Although the Priest plead guilty to the tax charges, Father Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to the bank fraud charges. So those charges remain pending.
A former Boone youth pastor, accused of having inappropriate contact with a now-20-year-old woman off-and-on since she was 16, was arrested Monday after turning himself in to Story County Jail, police said.
Joel M. Waltz, 47, is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor of therapist, a Class D felony.
According to Ames Police Cmdr. Geoff Huff, the victim met Waltz when she was 11, and used to meet with him on a regular basis until she was 18. Huff said that the victim described Waltz as a father figure, before he confessed his love for her when she turned 16.
Huff said the two began a sexual relationship that occurred in several locations around Boone and Ames, where the victim lived.
Waltz resigned from his position at Grace Community Church in March 2016, shortly after the allegations were brought against him.
On December 6, 2017, Grayson Schmidt, a reporter for The Ames Tribunereported:
A former Boone youth pastor who pleaded guilty to having inappropriate contact with a now 20-year-old woman off-and-on since she was 16, was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday, according to Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds.
Joel Mark Waltz, 47, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in October, a week before he was set to go to trial.
Waltz was arrested in late March and originally charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist, a Class D felony.
According to Ames Police Cmdr. Geoff Huff, the woman met Waltz when she was 11 years old, and met with him on a regular basis until she was 18. Huff said the woman described Waltz as a father figure before he confessed his love for her when she turned 16.
Jose Aboytes, assistant pastor of Palabra Miel Hispanic Church in Decatur, Illinois was charged yesterday with “seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.”
Jose Luis Aboytes, a former pastor of a church on the city’s east side, was charged Thursday in Macon County Circuit Court with seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.
Aboytes, 58, who is being held in the Macon County Jail on $250,000 bond, is facing one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, punishable by six to 60 years in prison, two counts of criminal sexual assault and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The victim told police she attended the Palabra Miel Hispanic Church, 3434 E. Wabash Ave., where Aboytes “began to sexually abuse her in an office in the church” about Sept. 16, 2015, said a request for an arrest warrant by Decatur Police detective Erik Ethell. …. The victim said the abuse “began with Jose touching her leg and progressed to sexual intercourse,” said the court document. The victim said that during choir practice “Jose would call her into his office,” where he would fondle and abuse her. She reported that the abusive conduct occurred during a period of several months. The adolescent girl told police she “took numerous cellphone photographs of her naked body and sent them to Jose’s phone.”
Detectives received more than 10 letters from the girl, in which Aboytes “expressed his love” for the victim, “in addition to knowing her age,” Ethell wrote in the court document. Aboytes “frequently asked (the victim) to destroy the letters after reading them.”
An intellectually disabled teen girl also reported to police that she had been abused by Aboytes, said the warrant request. She said that Aboytes would call her into his office, hug her and fondle her on top of her clothes. She told detectives that “Jose told her not to tell her parents about the conduct.”
A New Jersey pastor and a Florida software engineer were convicted on Friday of scheming to help an illegal bitcoin exchange avoid having banks and regulators look into its activities.
The bitcoin exchange, Coin.mx, was linked to an investigation of a data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co, revealed in 2014, that exposed more than 83 million accounts.
Pastor Trevon Gross, 47, and programer Yuri Lebedev, 39, were convicted of conspiracy and bribery charges by a jury in Manhattan federal court after a week of deliberations, according to a spokesman for federal prosecutors. Lebedev was also convicted of wire fraud and bank fraud.
Prosecutors charged that Lebedev helped arrange bribes to Gross, including $150,000 in donations to his church. In exchange, they say, Gross helped the operator of Coin.mx, Anthony Murgio, take over a small credit union Gross ran from his church.
Murgio used the credit union to evade scrutiny of banks wary of processing payments involving the virtual currency, prosecutors say. Lebedev was accused of working for Coin.mx through a front called “Collectables Club.”
Mark Stafford, founder and pastor of New Birth Power Plex Ministries in North St. Louis, Missouri, pleaded guilty to federal charges, admitting that he defrauded thirty-one people of $1 million. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
An investment adviser and former St. Louis pastor pleaded guilty to federal charges Wednesday and admitted defrauding 31 victims of $1.08 million.
Mark Q. Stafford, 52, of O’Fallon, Mo., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to mail fraud and filing a false tax return.
Stafford admitted that from at least March 2007 to July 2016 he misrepresented investments to clients of the Stafford Financial Firm. Stafford claimed to have opened accounts when he either didn’t deposit the money at all or deposited it in his own account, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Finneran said in court.
Stafford had falsely promised returns of up to 20 percent, as well as bonuses upon investment, Finneran said. Stafford created false financial statements to dupe investors into believing his claims, and even used a false name in correspondence claiming to come from those firms, Finneran said.
He also used money from some clients to pay others, the prosecutor said.
Stafford failed to file tax returns for 2011 and 2013 and understated his 2011 income by $150,000, causing tax losses to the government of almost $100,000, Finneran said.
Stafford was the founder and pastor of New Birth Power Plex Ministries in the Baden area of north St. Louis, prosecutors said.
The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis issued a warning about Stafford and The Stafford Financial Firm last week, citing a Florissant railroad retiree and his daughter who said they’d lost their life savings.
The BBB said that Stafford steered investors to internet-based investment funds that were later targeted by regulators and law enforcement.
A Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting another priest in a church rectory has been ordered to trial in Northern Michigan.
A judge found enough evidence against the Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka, pastor at St. Ignatius Church in Rogers City.
Obwaka is charged with first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct against another priest within the Diocese of Gaylord, who testified Tuesday in 89th District Court in Rogers City. Police say the alleged crimes occurred on Feb. 1 while the man was sleeping.
Obwaka, a native of Kenya, has been a priest since 2010. He became pastor at St. Ignatius in July 2013. He is in the Presque Isle County Jail without bond, which was denied during a preliminary hearing Monday.
“I am heartbroken over the events that have unfolded in recent days,” Bishop Steven Raica, leader of the Diocese of Gaylord, which includes St. Ignatius, previously said in a statement. “Our faith calls us to ensure the dignity of each human person is upheld in every circumstance. We must respond with compassion when anyone is harmed. We must also remember than in our system of justice, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
“These are difficult days … I ask for your prayers for all those affected by this situation.”
Father Sylvestre Obwaka has been charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct using force causing personal injury and third degree criminal sexual conduct using force. If convicted, Obwaka faces up to life in prison. The incident allegedly happened Feb. 1 while a 28-year-old man was staying at Obwaka’s house in Rogers City.
According to the Michigan State Police, the 28-year-old man alleges that Obwaka sexually assaulted him while he was sleeping.
On Tuesday during a preliminary hearing, the alleged victim testified and said he knew Father Obwaka.
He says the sexual assault happened following a night that also involved alcohol, and that he woke up to Father Obwaka inappropriately touching him.
“He used his hand to force my shoulder back down on the bed and he started saying things like, ‘do you love me? Say that you love me,'” the victim said in court.
The man says he tried to roll over.
At some point in the conversation, he says he said ‘no’ to the priest, but it wasn’t clear in court Tuesday what exactly the man was saying no to.
The defense says that Father Obwaka is innocent. Their case involves proving that the two engaged in consensual sex but that the alleged victim later felt guilty about it and reported the situation to police.
“You spent 15 days shedding your guilt and piling it and piling it on my client didn’t you,” Attorney Dan White asked the alleged victim.
“No,” the man replied.
The courtroom was filled with many of Father Obwaka’s supporters.
Rowland Foster is the pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Believing that God alone heals the sick, Foster teaches congregants to pray and seek God’s divine intervention in their medical maladies. This belief has led to several deaths, including the pastor’s two-year-old granddaughter. NBC 10 reports:
A pastor in a fundamentalist Christian sect that rejects doctors and drugs has been charged in the death of a child — his own granddaughter — from medical neglect. The novel prosecution is raising hopes among some advocates that it might spur change in a church that has resisted it.
Faith Tabernacle Congregation has long told adherents to place their trust in God alone for healing. As a result, dozens of children, mostly in Pennsylvania, have died of preventable and treatable illnesses. Church members reject modern medicine as a bedrock tenet of their faith, even as some have faced manslaughter charges in child deaths dating back 35 years.
Until now, though, no leader in the sect has ever faced charges.
“It could be a new tool to save the lives of these children,” said Rita Swan, one of the nation’s top experts on faith-based medical neglect. She leads the group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, which works to eliminate religious exemptions in state laws requiring parents to provide appropriate medical care.
With a routine course of antibiotics, 2-year-old Ella Foster would have almost certainly beaten the pneumonia that took her life in November. But her parents refused medical care, and she succumbed shortly after they asked the Rev. Rowland Foster to anoint her.
Foster, 72, pastor of a Faith Tabernacle Congregation church district in eastern Pennsylvania, was charged with a felony this month under a state law requiring clergy members, teachers and other “mandated reporters” to turn the names of suspected child abusers over to authorities for investigation. The law makes no exception for clergy who happen to be related to the abused child, as Foster was to Ella.
“He was well aware of the fact that this child was in need of medical treatment and he never reported it, nor do I believe that he ever had the intention to report it,” Berks County District Attorney John Adams, whose office is prosecuting Foster, said in an interview.
Nationally, some two dozen religious sects oppose all or most forms of medical care, according to Swan’s group, CHILD. The group has documented more than 300 deaths but says the number is almost certainly far higher because most are not investigated.
In Pennsylvania, more than 25 Faith Tabernacle children have died over the years.
The church operates three schools in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia, Altoona and Mechanicsburg — that together enroll several hundred students. Teachers at the schools are required by law to report suspected abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine system for investigation, but it’s unclear whether ChildLine has ever fielded a report from the schools.
One hindrance for prosecutors seeking accountability from Faith Tabernacle pastors and teachers is a lack of clarity in Pennsylvania’s child protective services law, which was revamped after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State.
Withholding medical care due to religious belief isn’t considered child abuse under the law, which makes a charge of failure to report in that situation legally problematic, said Adams’ chief deputy, Jonathan Kurland. The DA’s office was able to pursue a charge against Foster because the religious exemption does not apply if medical neglect causes a child’s death, Kurland said.
“If our Legislature is interested in protecting children, that needs to be changed,” Adams said. “Because, to me, it is outrageous that a church teaches that medical care is not to be sought for children.”
The leader of a Pennsylvania church that rejects modern medicine won’t stand trial in his granddaughter’s pneumonia death, because a judge on Wednesday dismissed a novel case that sought to hold the pastor responsible for failing to report suspected abuse.
A district judge found insufficient evidence to support the felony charge against the Rev. Rowland Foster in the November death of 2-year-old Ella Foster.
Foster serves as pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, part of a fundamentalist Christian sect that instructs members to eschew treatment by physicians and the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Prosecutors had argued he should have reported the girl’s condition to authorities because state law requires ministers to report suspected abuse.
The church’s stance against modern medicine has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable illnesses, most in Pennsylvania, according to an advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect. Their members hoped the pastor’s prosecution might spur change in a church that has resisted it.
“I think there’s just a lack of evidence all the way around,” defense lawyer Chris Ferro said after the two-hour hearing. “This is a grieving grandfather, not a criminal.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Kurland said the Berks County district attorney’s office may re-file the charges.
“The Fosters failed to provide adequate medical care for Ella Foster when it would have been apparent to a reasonable person that she needed that medical care,” Kurland argued to District Judge Andrea Book. “And she died as a result.”
Ella Foster likely suffered from severely labored breathing and a temperature of about 104 on the day she died, police said in charging documents.
The forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on the girl, Dr. Neil Hoffman, called her condition “quite easily or eminently treatable” and said she almost certainly would have survived had she been given antibiotics. He said she would have had severely labored breathing and a bad cough for at least a day before she died.
“The treatment could have been started within an hour or so of death and still had a high likelihood of being effective and saving the child,” Hoffman testified.