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Tag: Pastor Sean Higgins

Update: Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Sean Higgins Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Sexually Blackmailing Underage Teen Boys

sean higgins

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 October 2020, Sean Higgins, a youth pastor and music director at Harbor Baptist Church in Hainesport, New Jersey, and a teacher at Harbor Baptist Academy (located in the church), was accused of posing as a teen girl and persuading 13 boys on social media to send him nude pictures and videos of them masturbating. Harbor Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation, pastored by Pat Higgins. The church was started by Higgins’ father. Sean Higgins may be related to Pastor Higgins, but I could not verify this information.

The Burlington Daily Voice reported:

A Burlington County teacher and youth pastor has been indicted for coaxing underage boys on social media to send him nude pictures and videos, then using that material to blackmail his victims into performing sexual acts on themselves for his enjoyment, authorities said. 

A grand jury indicted Sean Higgins, 31, of Palmyra on 75 total counts that included charges of aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, cyber harassment, child endangerment, and obscenity to a minor, they said.

Thirteen of the counts were first-degree charges, according to Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw.

Higgins is accused of committing these crimes in 2020 while serving as the youth pastor and music leader at Harbor Baptist Church in Hainesport, and serving as a teacher at the Harbor Baptist Academy, a private K-12 school that is housed in the same facility.

The indictment includes 13 victims, ranging in age from 12 to17, who resided in Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee, Bradshaw said.

….

The investigation revealed that Higgins would adopt the persona of a teenage girl and utilize Snapchat and Instagram to begin a conversation with a juvenile male, introducing himself as Julie Miller. After establishing a rapport, he would suggest that they trade photos. Higgins would then send pictures of an unidentified female teenager, the prosecutor said.

In return, Higgins would often receive nude photos that the victims took of themselves. Immediately upon receiving those images, he would take a screenshot of the victim’s friends list that was visible on the forward-facing social media platform. Higgins would send that screenshot back to the victim and threaten to send the nude photos he had just received to the list of the victim’s friends unless the victim did exactly what Higgins demanded, Bradshaw said.

In most of the cases that were investigated, Higgins then demanded that his victims go into the bathroom at their residence and place the phone on the floor, or at an angle looking up, and would instruct the victims to masturbate or perform sexual acts on themselves. Higgins would record what was transpiring.

According to the videos made by Higgins that were obtained during the investigation, victims would often beg Higgins to be allowed to stop engaging in sexual conduct, but Higgins would demand that they complete his instructions, or face the consequences of having the recordings he was making of the incident be sent to their list of friends.

….

The investigation began after a youth in Berks County, Pa., contacted Snapchat and reported that he sent nude photos of himself to someone he believed to be an unknown female. The unknown female, who in actuality was Higgins, had threatened to expose his nude photographs after they exchanged pictures. An underage male in Alabama also reported his communications with Higgins to law enforcement authorities.

In January 2023, Higgins pleaded guilty to four counts of endangering the welfare of children.

The Courier Post reported:

A former youth pastor has admitted he tricked boys on social media into sending him nude pictures, then used the photos to blackmail the youths into performing sex acts on camera.

Sean Higgins, 32, of Palmyra faces a 27-year prison term under a plea agreement, said the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.

An investigation found Higgins would pose as a teenage girl, Julie Miller, to begin conversations with boys on Snapchat and Instagram, the prosecutor’s office alleged in a statement.

Higgins would suggest they trade photos and would send a picture of an unidentified teenaged girl. The boys often responded by sending nude photos of themselves, the statement said.

Higgins then would threaten to send the boys’ photos to people on their friends lists “unless the victim did exactly what Higgins demanded.”

In most of the cases that were investigated, Higgins ordered the boys to perform sex acts on camera.

“Higgins would record what was transpiring,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Videos made by Higgins showed victims often begged to be allowed to stop engaging in sexual conduct, the prosecutor’s office said.

But, it said, Higgins would tell the boys to follow instructions “or face the consequences of having the recordings he was making of the incident be sent to their list of friends.”

The offenses did not include physical contact with the victims.

An investigation began after a victim in Berks County, Pennsylvania, contacted Snapchat. A boy in Alabama also reported his experience to law enforcement authorities.

“Multiple state and local agencies assisted in confirming the identities of additional victims,” the statement said.

Higgins allegedly committed the crimes in 2020 while serving as the youth pastor and music leader at Harbor Baptist Church in Hainesport. He also taught at Harbor Baptist Academy, a private K-12 school in the same facility.

The crimes to which he admitted guilt did not involve members of the Hainesport church or students at the school, the statement said.

Higgins pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts of endangering the welfare of children, the prosecutor’s office said.

Today, Higgins was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his crimes.

NJ.com reports:

A youth pastor at a New Jersey church who previously pleaded guilty to blackmailing four underage boys into performing sex acts online was sentenced Monday to 25 years in state prison, officials said.

Sean Higgins, 32, of Palmyra in Burlington County, pleaded guilty in January to four counts of endangering the welfare of children, but he was not charged with having physical contact with his victims, and none of the charges involved members of his church’s congregation or students at a school where he worked, according to a statement from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.

Higgins committed the crimes in 2020 while serving as the youth pastor and music leader at Harbor Baptist Church in Hainesport, and he also worked as a teacher at the Harbor Baptist Academy, a private K-12 school that is housed in the same facility, the office said.

The investigation began in 2020 after a youth in Berks County, Pennsylvania, contacted Snapchat and reported that he sent nude photos of himself to someone he believed to be an unknown female, detectives said. The unknown female, who in actuality was Higgins, had threatened to expose the youth’s nude photographs after they exchanged pictures.

An investigation revealed that Higgins would adopt the persona of a teenage girl and utilize Snapchat and Instagram to begin a conversation with a boy, introducing himself as Julie Miller, authorities said. After establishing a rapport, he would suggest that they trade photos. Higgins would then send pictures of an unidentified female teenager.

In return, Higgins would often receive nude photos that the victims took of themselves, investigators said. Immediately upon receiving those images, he would take a screenshot of the victim’s friends list that was visible on the forward-facing social media platform. Higgins would send that screenshot back to the victim and threaten to send the nude photos he had just received to the victim’s friends list unless the victim did exactly what Higgins demanded.

In most of the cases that were investigated, Higgins then demanded that his victims go into the bathroom at their residence and place the phone on the floor, or at an angle looking up, and would instruct the victims to perform sexual acts on themselves, the office said. Higgins allegedly would record what was happening.

Higgins has been held in the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly since he was arrested at his home in October 2020, officials said.

“The crimes committed by this defendant are among the cruelest, most depraved ever prosecuted by this office,” Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw said in a statement. “Some of these victims contemplated suicide to get out from under the extreme anguish that accompanied the defendant’s debauched, unrelenting demands. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is for parents to routinely discuss with their children the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.”

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