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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Fernando Ponce Charged With Sexual Battery of Church Girl

fernando ponce

Fernando Ponce, youth pastor at Sembrador De Fe Church in Miami, Florida, was arrested Wednesday on “charges of sexual battery and promoting the sexual performance of a child.”

ABC-10 reports:

A youth pastor was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual battery and promoting the sexual performance of a child.

According to an arrest report, Fernando Misael Ponce, 24, met the 15-year-old victim several years ago at the Sembrador De Fe church at 2614 NW 21st Ave.

Police said Ponce showed interest in the girl when she was between the ages of 11 and 12, but her mother told him to stay away from her.

Police said Ponce asked the victim to be his girlfriend when she was about 14 years old, and they began a relationship.

According to the arrest report, Ponce and the girl were “girlfriend and boyfriend” for eight to nine months and engaged in sexual activity, including oral and anal sex.

Police said Ponce told the teen not to tell anyone about their relationship or else “her family would suffer.”

During their so-called relationship, police said the youth pastor and victim would video chat with each other, and Ponce would secretly take photos of the teen without her knowledge.

Detectives said Ponce confessed to all of the allegations against him.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Cesar Lopez Guilty of Sexual Assault

cesar lopez

Cesar Lopez, pastor of Ministerios Soldados de Jesucristo in Avoca, Arkansas, was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports:(link no longer active)

A deputy prosecutor told jurors Cesar Lopez should have been a shepherd who guided his flock. Instead, he was a wolf who picked out his prey, she said.

“He uses his position of power for his own sexual gratification to get what he wants,” Carly Marshall told jurors Wednesday as she requested the maximum sentence for Lopez.

A jury found Lopez, 60, a pastor of an Avoca church — Ministerios Soldados de Jesucristo — guilty of one count of second-degree sexual assault, a felony punishable with a prison sentence ranging from five to 20 years. The jury recommended Lopez serve 15 years.

The jury, which deliberated for four hours, acquitted Lopez of another count of second-degree sexual assault.

Lopez was arrested May 11, 2016.

The investigation began with a tip to the Arkansas State Police hotline a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl had been molested, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Investigators interviewed the 15-year-old girl, who said Lopez touched her inappropriately multiple times. She told investigators she had known Lopez since she was 6 and thought of him as a grandfather, according to court documents.

The 16-year-old girl told investigators Lopez touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable, but didn’t tell anyone in case it was a misunderstanding, according to court documents.

The jury found Lopez guilty of the charge involving the younger girl.

The two girls and their families were members of the church where Lopez is the pastor.

The girls testified and prosecutors presented witnesses who said Lopez apologized and begged for forgiveness.

Lopez testified Tuesday and denied any sexual contact with the two girls when questioned by his attorney Jim Rose. Lopez speaks Spanish, so an interpreter was needed.

Marshall told jurors Lopez preyed on the younger girl, who was depressed and began to cut herself to mask her pain.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren followed the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Lopez to prison. Lopez will have to serve slightly more than two years before he’ll be eligible for parole. He will be required to register as a sex offender.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor John Scheline Charged With Attempted Rape

John Scheline

John Scheline, executive director of Ignite Youth Mentoring in Richland, Washington and former pastor at  Faith Assembly in Pasco, Washington and  Bozeman Christian Center in Bozeman, Montana, was charged today with attempted second degree rape.

The Tri-City Herald reports:

All 26 men swept up in a five-day Tri-City operation to combat online child predators have now been charged, with five more appearing Wednesday in court.

William J. Barrett and Andrew L. Sanders both face Sept. 5 trials in Benton County Superior Court, while John M. Scheline, Darren J. Kerbyson and Gabriel Saenz have Oct. 2 dates.

Four of them are charged with attempted second-degree rape of a child and have been released from jail after posting $10,000 bond each.

Barrett is locked up on $25,000 bail because he has additional charges, including bringing methamphetamine and a glass smoking device to the meet-up.

They were arrested as part of a multi-agency effort, dubbed “Tri-Cities Net Nanny Operation,” between July 5 and 9.

Undercover detectives answered postings on various websites and placed their own ads claiming to be kids as young as 11 or parents who were offering their children for sex. Some of the suspects showed up to the predetermined location with condoms and sex toys.

The first three men arrested when authorities were still setting up the operation had Tuesday court hearings. The remaining 18 men are scheduled to appear Thursday.

Scheline, 40, was fired from his job as executive director of Ignite Youth Mentoring after the allegations surfaced. The Pasco father previously served as a pastor at Faith Assembly in Pasco and lead pastor of Bozeman Christian Center in Montana.

Investigators found an advertisement Scheline placed June 13 on Craigslist suggesting that a married dad was looking for a young boy, court documents said.

When a detective responded July 5 as a father offering up his 13-year-old son for sex acts, Scheline allegedly discussed in explicit detail what he would do with the boy.

Scheline eventually was given the address of an apartment. When “the (undercover) son” answered the door, Scheline turned and left and was taken into custody as he tried to get out of the complex, documents said.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Student Pastor Clayton Hand Charged With Indecent Behavior With a Juvenile

clayton hand

Clayton Hand, student pastor at Feliciana Baptist Church in Clayton, Louisiana, was arrested and charged with having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor.

WAFB-9 reports:

A youth pastor is facing criminal charges for an alleged sexual relationship he had with a female when she was a juvenile.

According to the Zachary Police Department, detectives arrested and charged Clayton Hand, 25, and charged him with indecent behavior with a juvenile.

The investigation against Head as launched in May 2017 after allegations about inappropriate relationships surfaced.

Zachary Police Chief David McDavid confirms that three victims came forward with allegations. However, investigators were only able to confirm that one victim was underage at the time the contact occurred.

The alleged relationship occurred roughly four years ago.

Hand is a youth pastor at a church located in Clinton, but the interaction between Hand and the teen happened in the Zachary area.

Chief McDavid noted that the case is ongoing and additional charges are possible.

Hand was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. He was released after posting a $2,500 bond.

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.

….

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.

….

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.

….

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.

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Update October 17, 2018

Faircloth was acquitted of all charges.