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Tag: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Robert Shiflet Sentenced to 33 Months for Sex Crimes

clergy sex abuse

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 June 2020, Robert Shiflet, a youth pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas from 1997-2002, was arrested and charged with child sex trafficking. Shiflet also worked at Liberty Christian School in Argyle from 2008 to 2010.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reported at the time:

A former Denton youth pastor who pleaded guilty on charges related to child sex trafficking will be sentenced in federal court on May 19 [2021], court records show.

Robert Shiflet, a Denton man, was arrested in June on four charges related to child sex trafficking. Shiflet initially pleaded not guilty to the four charges but later changed his plea to guilty on two charges of transporting minors across state lines for sexual activity. The other two charges were dismissed.

The incidents date back from 1997 to 2002, which overlapped with his time at Denton Bible Church. Authorities said he worked as a youth pastor in Little Rock, Arkansas during the time of the incidents and then later moved to Denton. He also worked at Liberty Christian School in Argyle from 2008 to 2010.

….

Shiflet changed his plea to guilty on Nov. 30. The penalty for transporting minors across state lines for sexual activity is up to 15 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release.

According to court documents, both parties agreed to a sentence of 27 to 33 months on each count to run concurrently, although the court can still determine the appropriate sentence. Shiflet would have to register as a sex offender upon release.

Yesterday, Shiflet was sentenced to 33 months in prison. The Denton Record-Chronicle reports:

 A former Denton youth pastor has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for crimes related to child sex trafficking from two decades ago.

Robert Shiflet, 51, was ordered Tuesday to serve 33 months in federal prison and must remain under federal supervision for the rest of his life once he’s released. Shiflet was indicted last year on charges relating to child sex trafficking and pleaded guilty in November 2020 to two of the charges.

….

“So I’m going to accept the plea agreement but not in any way, shape or form having anything to do with you or anything anybody has said positive about you,” U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky said in court, reported by the Democrat-Gazette. “But for them because they deserve some justice, even if it’s not the justice they or society should get completely.”

The newspaper reported the judge accepted the deal to help victims get some justice. The three victims at court Tuesday told the judge they would testify if the case moved to a jury trial, but said they preferred the 33-month sentence rather than risk a jury acquitting Shiflet.

“Thirty-three months is not justice but reading between the lines I have to believe the government has some concerns about this case if it went to the jury,” Rudofsky said. “I have a feeling that although these women have all said they would testify — which makes them more brave than you are on a single day of your life — they don’t want to and they want this to be done and that they are scared if this case goes to trial you will get off completely.”

According to the Democrat-Gazette, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant said the potential guideline sentence may have been miscalculated, leading to the range of 27 to 33 months in the plea agreement to be so far under the guidelines.

“Unfortunately, we were wrong, but that was the agreement we reached based upon our understanding at that time,” Bryant said.

Federal authorities said Shiflet worked as a youth pastor in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the case was filed, at the time of the incidents before moving to Denton.

….

Shiflet was indicted on three counts of transporting minors across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity and one count of coercing a minor to cross state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity. He pleaded not guilty in June 2020 but later reversed his plea in November 2020 to guilty of two counts of transporting.

“This defendant took advantage of his position of trust as a mentor to young people and instead used his power to isolate and sexually abuse them,” U.S. Attorney Hiland said in a news release at the time of the guilty plea. “This predatory behavior is never acceptable, but it is particularly disturbing when the offender is a youth pastor. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue those who commit these deplorable crimes.”

According to authorities, Shiflet led a group of eighth graders in May 1997 on a camping trip to Arkansas where he was able to isolate a 15-year-old girl and sexually assault her, telling her not to tell anyone. Shiflet was 27 years old at the time and a youth pastor in Denton.

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 A 16-year-old girl reported that in 2002 that Shiflet, her youth pastor in Little Rock at the time, “engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her.” One of the incidents was in the summer where he, 32 years old at the time, sexually assaulted her on a charter bus to Florida while on a youth group trip.

Yet another Evangelical pastor who escapes the full brunt of the law for his heinous crimes.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Trent Holbert Charged with Sex Crimes

pastor trent holbert

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.

Trent Holbert, pastor of The Ridge Church (its website is currently down) in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was charged last week with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. The Ridge Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kentucky today reports:

Trent Holbert, 41, former pastor of The Ridge Church, was arrested last month and has been charged with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense, the Biblical Recorder reported. He was previously the pastor of Epoch Fellowship Church in Owenton, Ky., as late as 2017.

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Both The Ridge Church and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina have released statements condemning Holbert’s alleged actions.

“Trent Holbert has resigned from his position as the head pastor of the Ridge Church,” said a statement released Friday from church elder Drew Wheeler. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of our former head pastor and the families of all of those involved. The care and protection of children and minors is a biblical and moral mandate that is taken seriously by the Ridge Church. We do not condone such actions as the alleged, and our prayers are with the victims of any such abuse.”

The North Carolina convention’s statement, released Thursday, said leaders were “deeply grieved” by the charges.

“As a pastor, Trent has been a speaker at convention-related events for adults in the recent past,” the statement said. “He underwent background and reference checks prior to his participation in those events. We are not aware that he had any contact or dealings with minors as part of those events. The care and protection of children and minors is both a biblical and moral mandate that we take very seriously. We are praying for everyone who has been impacted by these alleged heinous crimes. N.C. Baptists are offering support to the local association and the church as they face these challenging times, as well. We stand with any and all victims of abuse and are committed to cooperating with authorities during their investigation. We encourage you to contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office if you have any relevant information.”

According to WLOS news, on May 18, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Holbert’s residence. During the execution of the warrant, Holbert was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and electronic devices were seized from the home.

Oh, the Southern Baptists are “deeply grieved” by Holbert’s alleged criminal behavior. Yet, these same Southern Baptists refused to seriously address clergy sexual abuse at their latest national convention. Further, Southern Baptists refuse to establish a database of church leaders who have been accused of sex crimes. What Southern Baptists should be deeply grieved over is their immoral inaction on clergy sexual abuse.

Holbert’s church bio page (which has been scrubbed from the church’s website) states:

Pastor Trent is a gifted communicator and a relational junkie. He loves people and gets his fix from being a positive part of their lives. His ministry mindset is holistic. He believes that God’s plan and design for humans doesn’t stop at spiritual needs. He holds a degree in theology, but as a certified personal trainer and holistic health coach, Trent teaches us how to know our Creator better through optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You can hear him weekly on the Fit For the Kingdom Podcast.

If convicted, Hobert’s bio can be updated to say “gifted communicator, relational junkie, and child molester.”

Black Mountain News article on Holbert starting The Ridge Church.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: United Church of Christ Pastor Misi Tagaloa Accused of Fraud

misi tagaloa

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.

Misi Tagaloa, pastor of Second Samoan United Church of Christ in Long Beach, California, stands accused of stealing over $100,000 from Phillip Campbell (who has since died), a disabled, schizophrenic homeless man. Charged last August, Tagaloa remains the pastor of Second Samoan.

Jeremiah Dobruck, a reporter for the Long Beach Press, writes:

The man in the photo looked like her father, but Sounmi Campbell needed to be sure.

Phillip Campbell had disappeared almost 20 years earlier in a fog of mental illness that abruptly drove him from his sister’s home in Georgia. A trail of letters, the final ones postmarked from Long Beach more than a decade ago, was his family’s last clue to his whereabouts.

The letters eventually stopped, but the search didn’t. From the East Coast, Sounmi’s sister-in-law was scouring online records. In 2017, as she Googled the name Phillip Campbell, she saw it associated for the first time with Misi Tagaloa, a prominent pastor in Long Beach who has run for City Council three times.

What were the chances this could be their Phillip Campbell?

For months, Sounmi said, her sister-in-law tried to reach the pastor, but he would take weeks to respond. When he eventually provided a photo of a man he knew as Phillip Campbell, Sounmi was stunned.

“When the picture came up, I was like, oh my god,” she said. In the man’s face—with an unmistakable hawk nose the entire family seems to share—she saw herself.

….

For years, Sounmi had feared her father was dead or living on the street, so she at first was grateful Campbell was under the care of Tagaloa, who leads the Second Samoan Congregational Church on the outskirts of Downtown Long Beach.

Campbell was living in a home next to the church’s sanctuary. Inside, the conditions weren’t ideal, according to his family, who said he was sleeping on a couch in the house with several other homeless men. But at least he was safe.

That gratitude has since soured as investigators from the Long Beach Police Department and state Department of Justice unwound Tagaloa’s financial relationship with Campbell.

“This is clearly abuse of my father,” Sounmi said after seeing the breadth of the accusations laid out in a 14-page affidavit filed by state prosecutors earlier this year and obtained by the Long Beach Post last week.

Tagaloa’s crime, the document alleges, spanned years, with the pastor gaining power of attorney over Campbell, a schizophrenic man in his 60s who had lost the ability to properly care for himself.

While managing Campbell’s finances, prosecutors say, Tagaloa embezzled more than $100,000.

The California Attorney General’s Office charged Tagaloa in August with felony counts of grand theft and theft from an elder dependent, but the case has remained largely out of public view with Tagaloa free on $70,000 bail as he progresses slowly toward trial.

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Madena estimates her brother had been living out of Tagaloa’s church since some time before 2013. By 2016, Tagaloa was applying to manage Campbell’s VA benefits, according to investigators’ account in their 14-page affidavit. As part of the application, the pastor signed an agreement pledging to use the money only for Campbell’s benefit.

As soon as 2017, the VA flagged a questionable expense. In August that year, officials asked Tagaloa to justify a $4,390 payment to ClickSound & Stage, the name of a Norwalk-based stage and sound equipment rental company.

When investigators circled back for a closer look, they found a host of suspicious payments starting as early as 2016, according to the affidavit. They allege Campbell’s account was charged $356 at Men’s Suit Outlet, $913.11 to TNT Electric Signs, $318 to A & A Towing, $1,000 for rent at “Second Samoan,” followed three days later by another $1,200 to the church.

There was a flurry of spending from Campbell’s account on one day in February 2017, the affidavit says: a total of $2,477.75 at what appear to be clothing and apparel stores like Judy Blue Jeans USA, LAJEWELRYPLAZADOTCOM and Capella Apparel Co.

More charges would follow, according to the affidavit: hundreds of dollars to restaurants and donations to local community groups along with thousands directly to Tagaloa’s church.

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All the details still aren’t publicly known. In the affidavit, investigators describe over 50 transactions they thought were suspicious, but they also seized six years of bank records that could contain more details.

The charges against Tagaloa accused him of stealing more than $100,000, but the California Attorney General’s Office declined to give a more exact figure or describe further what Tagaloa allegedly spent the money on other than to say they were “unauthorized expenses.”

Prosecutors haven’t found evidence of Tagaloa gaining guardianship over anyone other than Campbell, a spokesperson for the State Attorney General’s Office said in an email.

Sounmi said her father was clearly unable to adequately care for himself, but if his children had been in control, perhaps they could have gotten him better treatment before he ended up on a couch or in a convalescent hospital.

“There’s no reason that my father had to live like that,” she said. “We needed that pastor’s help and he neglected to contact us.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Edward Williams Accused of Having Romantic Relationship with Teen Girl

pastor edward williams

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.

Edward Williams, pastor of Jesus People Full of Faith Ministries in Pembroke Pines, Florida, stands accused of having a romantic relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl. Williams was also a teacher and football coach at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School.

Channel 10 reports:

A high school football coach is under arrest after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Detectives said that 44-year-old Edward Malachi Williams of Miramar was romantically involved with a 17-year-old girl at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School.

According to a police report, the victim told investigators that the two were not sexually active but were waiting for her to turn 18 before going public as a couple. One of the texts she showed police from Williams said: “Baby, give me one chance, baby, baby, baby, give me one chance. I can’t believe I lost my girl. Please what if we make love one last time, it won’t be the last time, but for awhile.”

Miami-Dade Schools Police officers said that they went to the home of the 17-year-old after receiving information through an anonymous source.

They said the girl stated that although they had not been sexually intimate, they are “in love, have held hands, and kissed.” Police said both the victim and Williams denied engaging in sex.

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Williams was located at the school on Wednesday, according to investigators, and brought to Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department headquarters for questioning, where he was subsequently arrested.

He was released from jail late Wednesday and walked out covering his head with a shirt. He did not speak to anyone.

According to Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Williams had been employed with the district from 1999 to 2017. He returned to the district in June of 2020. School officials said he had no history of disciplinary actions. Williams has been fired, according to the district.

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He is facing a second-degree felony charge, Offenses Against Students By Authority Figures.

Williams’ church bio states:

Edward is committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, so when the call came for ministry, it was no hard decision. Edward’s desire to see people live their lives to the fullest in Christ made the call and commitment to Pastor in the South Florida area an easy one. Edward’s strong belief is God has blessed us to be a blessing to others.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Kevin Madden Accused of Sex Crimes

pastor kevin madden

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.

Kevin Madden, a youth pastor at Discover Church in Rogers, Arkansas, stands accused of two counts of sexual indecency with a child and engaging children in sexually explicit conduct for visual and print medium.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports:

A former youth pastor was released Saturday from the Benton County Jail after posting a $50,000 bond following his arrest in connection with sex crimes involving two teen girls.

Kevin James Madden, 31, of Rogers was arrested in connection with two counts of sexual indecency with a child and engaging children in sexually explicit conduct for visual and print medium. Prosecutors haven’t filed formal charges against him.

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Madden was the youth pastor at Discover Church in Rogers, according to a probable cause affidavit. The church said in a statement that Madden was placed on administrative leave when church authorities were made aware of the allegations. The church then contacted the girls and their parents, according to the statement.

“On Monday, May 3, we were told that the allegations seemed to be valid, but the detective could not give us a definitive answer at that time,” according to the statement. “On Friday, we were officially made aware that all allegations were true.”

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Cassandra Brewer, the wife of the church’s pastor, reported to police that a church member told her Madden had sent photographs of his “private parts to a 17-year-old girl,” according to the affidavit. Brewer told police he started sending the images when the girl was 16.

Brewer reported Madden also may have been sending photographs to another girl, according to the affidavit.

….

One girl told police Madden started paying close attention to her when she turned 16, and he grabbed her and attempted to kiss her in the game room at the church, according to the affidavit. She told police Madden sent her a photograph of him in the shower.

The teen said she stopped going to the church because Madden was making her feel uncomfortable, according to the affidavit.

The second teen, a 15-year-old girl, told police Madden asked her to send him a nude photograph, according to the affidavit.

Madden told police he sent a photograph of himself to the older girl, according to the affidavit.

Channel 5 reports:

On April 30, 2021, a member of the Discover Church in Rogers reported a crime involving a minor. The tipster told police that a juvenile female from the church had come forward saying that the youth pastor, Kevin Madden, had sent sexual pictures to her and that he had sent inappropriate text messages to another minor in the church. 

During the course of their investigation, detectives learned that Madden had allegedly tried to kiss one of the girls at a church event and that he harassed her while she was at work. The girl also accused Madden of sending pictures of his penis and photos of himself showering to her over Snapchat. That other girl stated that Madden asked her to send him nude photos. 

A detective spoke with Madden at his home, where he initially denied the allegations against him. He said he had made mistakes with the juveniles but that he had not touched them. Madden went on to say what started as talks about one of the girl’s relationships and boyfriends had turned into inappropriate conversations. He then admitted to sending a picture of his penis to the girl and photos of him in the shower. 

Madden denied asking the other female to send him nude photos, according to a court affidavit. 

The detective requested a warrant for Madden’s arrest for engaging children in sexually explicit conduct for use in visual or print media and two counts of sexual indecency with a child. 

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser