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Tag: Moises Escoto

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Moises Escoto Accused of Numerous Sex Crimes with a Child


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.

Moises Escoto, a youth pastor at Iglesia de Cristo Misionera Mahanaim Church in Carrollwood, Florida, stands accused of numerous sex crimes with children.

The Kansas City Star reports:

A youth pastor and a foster parent used an app to meet children and sexually assault them, according to a Florida sheriff’s office.

Both men face charges including human trafficking for commercial sexual activity, lewd or lascivious battery and use of computer to solicit illegal acts, according to a news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies arrested Moises Reiniery Escoto, 36, a youth pastor, on Feb. 9 after he was accused of soliciting sexual photos and videos from a teen he met on an app, the release says.

Detectives began investigating after the 16-year-old’s mother found “disturbing content” on the teen’s phone, the release says.

Detectives found that Escoto had met the teen two years prior on an app called Sniffies, the release says. The app describes itself as a “map-based meetup app” that can be used with an account or anonymously, according to its website.

After meeting the teen, Escoto solicited “sexually explicit pictures and videos in exchange for money and gifts,” deputies said.

He was also meeting with the teen and “engaging in sexual acts,” the release says.

Contact information for Sniffies could not be found. Its website says users must be 18 or older to use the app.

A message left at the Tampa church where the sheriff’s office said Escoto served as a youth pastor was not returned.

Escoto is being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on a $138,500 bond, according to Hillsborough County Jail records.

During their investigation, detectives found another man they said had met a child on the Sniffies app and “engaged in sexual acts with (the) child in exchange for money,” the release says.

Deputies identified the suspect as Joel Ricky Lutz, 38, who is a registered foster parent, according to the release.

Authorities arrested Lutz on Feb. 15 at the Outback Steakhouse in Pinellas County where he worked, the release says.

He is being held on a $280,500 bond.

The Florida Department of Children and Families said in a statement that Lutz is not currently licensed as a foster parent.

“The Department is deeply disturbed by the allegations brought forth,” the statement says. “(The Department of Children and Families) will assist law enforcement in their current investigation as needed.”

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement that both of the men arrested were meant to be mentors for young people in the community.

“It is absolutely disgusting that these two men, who were placed in positions of mentorship and trust with children in our community, used online apps to seek out and victimize our youth,” the statement says. “Unfortunately, we know that predators are constantly on the hunt to ruin the innocence of our community. I urge parents to know where and what their children are doing online at all times.”

Law and Crime adds:

A youth pastor sexually abused a 16-year-old child for almost a year and expressed indifference when learning the victim’s age, according to deputies in Hillsborough County, Florida.

“I don’t care,” 36-year-old defendant Moises Escoto said, according to a criminal report affidavit.

Deputies announced the suspect’s arrest on Friday. Authorities claim he met the victim through a chat and meet-up app called Sniffies. Authorities said that as part of the investigation, they discovered that another man, 38-year-old Joel Lutz, met a victim through the same platform and engaged in what they described as “sexual acts with a child in exchange for money.” Authorities identified this victim as being 16 years old. The sheriff’s office also identified Lutz as a registered foster parent.

At the time of his arrest on Feb. 9, Escoto was a youth pastor at Iglesia de Cristo Misionera Mahanaim Church in Tampa, Florida. Not anymore. Senior Pastor Raymond Arroyo told Law&Crime Escoto was fired “immediately.”

“On February 9, 2023, #teamHCSO’s Human Trafficking Section began investigating a case after a mother found disturbing content on her 16-year-old’s cell phone,” authorities wrote regarding Escoto’s case.

Authorities said they learned he and the victim had “multiple sexual encounters” between May 2021 and March 2022.

“The victim and the defendant also exchanged in several sexual explicit photographs/video of each other via social media,” deputies said.

He willingly exchanged “US currency and/or gift cards” in exchange for “the sexual acts and/or photographs,” investigators continued. The two communicated through Snapchat and the Sniffies platform, authorities claimed.

Investigators said they received the victim’s mother’s permission to search the phone and also pose as the teen online, communicating with Escoto. Authorities claimed to discover messages between the victim and former youth pastor, including:

“send me the ass pic. Showing hole (go on [redacted] hanging)”

“One time fuck? for $65?”

Escoto allegedly made a detailed request for sexual acts in another message. Authorities said the 16-year-old identified the defendant through a driver’s license

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Bruce Gerencser