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Tag: Sexual Assault

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Gustavo Zamora Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

pastor gustavo zamora

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.

Gustavo Zamora, former pastor of Apostolic Assembly Church in Lindsay, California, was sentenced last Friday to twenty-five years in prison for six counts of lewd acts committed upon a child under the age of 14.

The Fresno Bee reports:

A pastor who worked in churches across the central San Joaquin Valley since the 1980s will spend 25 years to life in prison for molesting several girls. Gustavo Zamora, 69, was sentenced in Tulare County Superior Court on Friday for six counts of lewd acts committed upon a child under the age of 14. The crimes involved substantial sexual conduct, and each count is a felony considered as a strike offense, according to a statement Tuesday from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Zamora pleaded no contest to each count and admitted the crimes occurred against more than one victim, which adds a special allegation.

The crimes are nearly 40 years old. According to the DA’s office, Zamora was a pastor at the Apostolic Assembly Church in Lindsay between 1984 and 2000, when he assaulted five girls. They were 4 and 14 years old at the time of the sexual assaults. The incidents occurred at the church and other locations within Tulare County.

Zamora was first confronted with allegations of abuse in 2000, though the crime was not reported at the time and Zamora left the church and disappeared. A comprehensive investigation was started after multiple adult victims came forward with new allegations between 2004 and 2020. Zamora was arrested in May or 2020 in Lodi, where we was still working as a pastor. “While it may be difficult for some to process such news, especially regarding someone in a position of trust, the bravery of these victims to come forward cannot be understated,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward in the statement. “Their courage should be an example to anyone who has suffered such abuse.”

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Youth Pastor Timothy Wells Accused of Sexually Assaulting a Child

youth pastor timothy wells

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.

Timothy Wells, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas, stands accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

KWTX-10 reports:

A former minister of a Wylie church was arrested on Friday, Jan 7 on a charge of sexually assaulting a child after accusations surfaced last month.

On Dec 12, 2021, a staff member of the First Baptist Church of Wylie contacted the Collin County Sheriff’s Office to report another staff member for alleged sexual assault.

During their investigation, the Sheriff’s Office investigators identified a 15-year-old girl who disclosed that she had been inappropriately touched by First Baptist Church of Wylie Junior High Minister Timothy Wells.

….

Wells had been an employee of the church since January 2019. He was immediately placed on leave and his employment was later terminated.

Sheriff’s Office investigators obtained a warrant for Timothy Wells’ arrest, charging him with indecency with a child by sexual contact, a second-degree felony. Wells turned himself into the Collin County Detention Facility where he was booked and is being held in lieu of a $25,000 bond.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

The sheriff’s office said the First Baptist Church of Wylie, where Wells had worked as a junior high minister since January 2019, reported the allegation of sexual assault on Dec. 12.

The sheriff’s department said in a written statement that a 15-year-old girl told investigators that Wells touched her inappropriately off church property. The sheriff’s department declined to provide further details, including whether the girl knew Wells through church or the alleged incident was at an event affiliated with the church.

Authorities said the church immediately suspended Wells from his position and later fired him. The church said in a statement that it cooperated with authorities throughout their investigation but did not comment further about the investigation.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Conrad Estrada Valdez Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

pastor conrad estrada valdez

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 2019, Conrad Estrada Valdez, pastor of Restoration Outreach Christian Church in Houston, Texas, was accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Yesterday, Valdez pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

ABC-13 reports:

A Houston-area pastor has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the sexual assault of a child.

Conrad Estrada Valdez , 61, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the charge of sexual assault of a child between the ages of 14 and 17.

Valdez was a pastor at The Restoration Outreach Christian Church, according to Harris County sheriff’s deputies.

In 2019, a then-30-year-old woman disclosed to authorities that she was sexually abused by Valdez when she was 15 years old. She described Valdez as a longtime family friend and her pastor/mentor at the time.

She told deputies that she started visiting the pastor for counseling after experiencing a previous sexual assault.

She said what started as Valdez inappropriately touching her later progressed into sexual intercourse.The woman said she didn’t come forward sooner because Valdez had threatened to expose the situation to her family.

She told deputies she eventually came forward after watching a documentary on survivors of sexual abuse.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Kevin Scott Heffner Sentenced to Twenty-Five Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

pastor kevin heffner

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 November 2018, Kevin Scott Heffner, pastor of Victory Baptist Church and former principal of the Victory Academy in Ruffin, North Carolina, was found guilty of two felony B1 counts of statutory sex offense with a child under 15 and 12 counts of felony disseminating obscene material to a minor and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. (Extensive News & Record story about Heffner’s background)

The News & Record reports:

A former Ruffin pastor and private school principal will spend a minimum of 25 years in prison without the chance of parole after pleading guilty to performing inappropriate sex acts and sending a dozen nude pictures to one of his minor female students who was also a member of his congregation.

Kevin Scott Heffner, 48, of Pelham, was sentenced in the aggravated range Thursday in Rockingham County Superior Court by Guilford County Superior Court Judge William Wood.

The judge found Heffner, the former pastor of Victory Baptist Church and former principal of the Victory Academy in Ruffin, guilty of two felony B1 counts of statutory sex offense with a child under 15 and 12 counts of felony disseminating obscene material to a minor.

The victim was 14 and 15 years old during the time Heffner committed the crimes that took place February through August.

Rockingham County Assistant District Attorney Michelle Alcon said there were a dozen nude photographs of Heffner in various poses, many of which reveal his identifying tattoo of a Star of David.

As Wood delivered the sentence, a gaunt Heffner, clad in a tan county jail uniform worn over thermal underwear, clutched his Bible and bowed his head. His mother Connie Heffner, 79, of Greensboro, along with his daughter Whitney Heffner, 21, cried quietly from the second row in the courtroom, while his wife, Angie Heffner, stared straight ahead.

Just before he was sentenced, Heffner told Wood that he accepted full responsibility for his actions and asked the judge for leniency in sentencing. Earlier in the proceeding when asked by Wood if he accepted and understood the plea agreement, Heffner said, shaking his head, “I don’t want (victim’s name) to have to go to trial.”

“What I did is heinous and monstrous, but I didn’t mean to do it,” said Heffner as he read from a handwritten statement. “What I’ve done sickens me. I’m just pleading for mercy.”

Before reading the sentence, Wood told Heffner he found it “baffling” that as a father of children ages 18, 20 and 21, Heffner would have abused another child, knowing “the trauma it would cause.”

The judge concluded, “It’s beyond belief, Mr. Heffner.”

Heffner was arrested by the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 29 after investigators determined the Guilford County native formed a sexual relationship with the student.

Her mother, also a church member, contacted the sheriff’s office earlier that day after learning from the victim’s sibling that the girl had received numerous sexual-themed texts and photographs from Heffner, Alcon said.

The sibling borrowed the phone for a short time and discovered a text thread between the minor and Heffner.

“[The sibling] found more than what she bargained for,” Alcon said during the hearing, adding that detectives used the phone’s history to unravel a road map to obscene material and inappropriate acts.

“Scott Heffner was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who used his position to groom his victim,” said Rockingham County District Attorney Jason Ramey, who commended Sheriff Sam Page, Detective Jonathan Cheek, Detective Ed Smaldone and Alcon for swiftly delivering justice for the victim.

“She looked to him as a spiritual leader and he took advantage of her,” Ramey said. “Throughout this process, (the victim) has demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage and her bravery and cooperation were essential to making sure Heffner will not be able to harm other children.”

Ramey hopes a hefty sentence for Heffner will bring the victim and her family some solace and closure.

“I also understand that, due to the nature of Heffner’s position, his actions caused tremendous harm to many other people as well,” Ramey said. “I pray that the good people in the congregation of Victory Baptist Church will not lose hope or faith in Christ because of Heffner’s betrayal of his sacred position.”

Prosecutors said that some texts to the victim were about oral sex and masturbation.

They included “detailed incidences of an actual physical relationship between the two of them,” Alcon told the court.

Some of the texted photos “show his full body” and a “close up of his penis,” Alcon said.

While Heffner digitally penetrated the young woman, he never engaged in penile intercourse with the minor, Alcon said.

Painting a portrait of an emboldened Heffner, Alcon described how he digitally penetrated the victim while on a crowded church van en route to a retreat, and how he repeated the act while at a Danville movie theater while his daughter sat close by.

The disgraced pastor also engaged in oral sex acts with the victim in his church’s office, church hallway, and kitchen, as well as in the victim’s home, and in his own master bathroom.

Heffner also made a practice of taking the victim on errands in his vehicles and digitally penetrated her while in a Suburban in a retailer’s parking lot and while in his Honda in the victim’s driveway.

While on a church retreat to Bugg’s Island and Kerr Lake near the North Carolina/Virginia border, Heffner “penetrated her (digitally) in the lake and she felt his penis in the water,” Alcon said.

….

The victim told authorities that Heffner made his first advance “by him grabbing her breast and rubbing her vagina in his office,” Alcon said.

Though the victim’s mother was too distraught to speak in court, Alcon told the court that the mother believed Heffner “used his position of authority and trust” to “prey” on her daughter.

Presenting himself as a father figure to a young woman who had lost her own dad, Heffner further won the victim’s trust. He paid extra attention to the student at school, took the student to lunch alone and “he had her convinced he was going to leave his wife for her,” Alcon said. “He took her innocence away from her and he convinced her that a woman should do things to pleasure the men in her life.”

“He’s a good man,” said Angie Heffner, the pastor’s wife of 23 years. “He has a good record. If anybody knows that man, I do. We’ve gone through three kids together, two cancer scares. He’s been good to us. He’s a good person.”

Pledging to write, call and visit Heffner every chance she can, Angie Heffner was without tears during the detailed reading of charges. “This does not define him in my eyes. I love him and nothing can change that,” she said.

Far from a philanderer, Heffner was a good husband and provider, who had early in their marriage worked three jobs at a time, his wife said. His employment included a job with the City of Greensboro as a landscaper, a carpet cleaning gig, and a stint as a youth pastor. He had been a full-time pastor for 15 years at the time of his arrest.

Angie Heffner didn’t excuse her husband’s poor judgment, but suggested that the recent death of his father, stress with transition in the church, and the departure of two children from home may have affected his state of mind.

Alcon questioned Angie Heffner in redirect about her monitored phone calls to her jailed husband made shortly after his August arrest. The prosecutor said that some of Angie Heffner’s comments suggested she had prior knowledge of his involvement with a minor before his arrest.

But Angie Heffner denied the allegation, saying, “He was counseling her (the victim). I told him that if in this ministry… if you let people too close, it can burn you. Satan doesn’t want to see Christianity succeed. He will do anything to break up families.”

….

During Thursday’s plea hearing, Alcon said that Heffner could have been charged with at least seven additional B1 felonies – charges that carry a maximum penalty of life without parole.

Those charges were negated by the swiftness in which Heffner agreed to the plea, Alcon said.

Heffner’s attorney Richard Panosh of Reidsville reminded the court that Heffner had been forthcoming about his crimes and had taken full responsibility for them early on. “The first thing he said was, ‘It’s all my fault. I knew better. I take full responsibility for it. The whole thing is my fault.’”

Heffner called his victim, ‘faultless,’ Panosh told the court. “…There is nothing to justify what he did.” Panosh said. “There is no excuse for it.”

Despite the plea agreement, Heffner could face additional charges in other jurisdictions, officials said.

Alcon, who detailed Heffner’s numerous crimes in the Danville area and on the church retreat, said that the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with Virginia law enforcement officials regarding possible charges.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Anglican Lay Pastor Mark Rivera Charged with Sex Crimes

pastor mark rivera

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.

Mark Rivera, a lay pastor at Christ Our Light Anglican in Big Rock, Illinois — an Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) church plant — was recently charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual assault.

The Religion News Service reports:

A former lay pastor in a conservative Anglican denomination was charged Wednesday (Dec. 29) with two felony counts of criminal sexual assault in the Kane County, Illinois, circuit court. The charges come a year after Joanna Rudenborg reported Mark Rivera, her former neighbor, to Kane County police, accusing him of raping her in 2018 and again in 2020. 

According to Pat Gengler, undersheriff at Kane County, bail was set at $50,000 and Rivera was released after a hearing. “He’s on home monitoring, so he does have a GPS bracelet which greatly restricts his movements,” said Gengler.

….

“I’m glad he was finally charged and the prosecution is happening,” said Rudenborg. “It’s certainly validating that the state looked at the evidence and said, this is a strong case worth pursuing. … I hope that my story being taken seriously by the authorities will help other people take other victims’ stories more seriously.”

….

Rivera is also being prosecuted on charges of felony sexual assault and predatory abuse of a victim under 13 years of age, and at least eight others have made allegations of abuse by Rivera, including child sexual abuse, grooming, rape and assault.

Rivera was a lay minister at Christ Our Light Anglican, an ACNA church plant in Big Rock, Illinois, from 2013 to 2019. He was also a volunteer leader at Church of the Resurrection — the headquarters of the Upper Midwest Diocese — in Wheaton, Illinois, from the mid-1990s until 2013.

On Aug. 28, ACNA announced the members of a Provincial Response Team that would oversee an investigation into the diocese’s handling of the allegations. The denomination was not able to respond to a request for comment by the time of publication, but according to an email sent from the Provincial Response Team to Rudenborg on Nov. 30 and shown to Religion News Service, the group was “ready to begin the initial vetting process to narrow down the list” of investigative firms. That list would then be voted on by both survivors and members of the Provincial Response Team. On Twitter, Rudenborg expressed frustration at the team’s lack of action.

“At this point, I’m safe from Mark, I’m not in any direct danger, so really what I want is for him to not be able to harm anyone else,” Rudenborg told RNS. “The only way we can be sure that that’s going to happen is if he goes back into custody. So it’s kind of still a waiting game.”

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Former IFB Principal Laverne Fox Sentenced to Prison For Sex Crimes

laverne fox

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.

(Previous posts about Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California and its pastor Bruce Goddard: Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Malo Victor Monteiro Accused of Sexual Abuse, Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Victor Monteiro Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Crimes, Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Malo “Victor” Monteiro Sentenced to Five Years in Prison, and Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics)

Former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian school principal Laverne Fox was arrested on July 1, 2019, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Fox was later extradited to California where he faced two counts of lewd acts with a child and two other sexual misconduct charges.

Fox was the principal at the private school operated by Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported:

After his [Laverne Fox] accuser, Kathy Durbin, told pastor Bruce Goddard in 1992 about the sexual abuse and grooming she faced over a span of two years by Fox, Goddard moved Fox to First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.

….

Durbin told the Star-Telegram that Fox began grooming her for sex at a young age. In public Facebook posts, she wrote how she thought she had a father-daughter type relationship with Fox.

She realized later that was part of the grooming, she wrote. Fox began having sex with her when she was 15.

During the 1992 conversation with Goddard, Durbin said she dramatically told him that Fox and her had kissed so he would know something more was happening. She was disturbed and confused by the encounters.

Durbin was later forced to attend counseling and write an apology to Fox’s wife.

In January 2021, Fox pleaded guilty to lewd acts on a minor and sexual penetration of a child under 16 years old and was later sentenced to two years in prison.

The Press-Enterprise reported:

The former principal of Wildomar’s Faith Baptist Academy pleaded guilty Friday, Jan. 8,  to molesting a teenage student who babysat for his family more than 30 years ago.

Laverne Paul Fox, 61, who also formerly served as the bus director for the affiliated Faith Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual abuse involving a minor before Judge Mark Mandio at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. Fox is scheduled for sentencing on April 30, and faces a maximum of four years, eight months in prison, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

Fox initially was charged with three felony counts, but one of the charges was dropped because the statute of limitations for that specific offense, oral copulation with a minor, had expired, Hall said.

….

“It’s taken 30 years to get to this day. I had my doubts that I would ever get to see it,” said Fox’s victim, Kathy Durbin, in a statement Friday. She was in court Friday, where Fox was scheduled for a preliminary hearing before he pleaded guilty. “Today was not just a victory for me, it was a victory for every victim of childhood sexual abuse,” she said.

Fox was one of two men arrested in connection with a sex abuse scandal at the church spanning nearly 20 years — from 1990 through 2010. The scandal was exposed in 2018 when Durbin and victims of former youth pastor Malo Victor Monteiro went public on social media with their stories. Fox’s and Montiero’s victims claim longtime church pastor Bruce Goddard and his wife, Tammy, were well aware of the sexual abuse allegations but did not report Fox or Monteiro to police. Instead, they transferred them to other churches and made the victims feel like they were to blame.

Bruce Goddard did not return a telephone call seeking comment Friday, and has never spoken publicly on the sex abuse allegations at his church.

In November 2018, Monteiro was sentenced to five years, four months in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting three teenage girls from his youth ministry, all under the age of 18 from 2000 to 2010. His victims also made their stories public on social media in 2018.

Monteiro, now 47, has been serving his sentence at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, and is scheduled to be released from custody at the end of the month, having earned myriad credits while incarcerated, including for good behavior, for time served prior to sentencing, and for participating in various work programs, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Durbin, who is Monteiro’s sister-in-law, said she used to babysit for Fox’s family. She considered Fox a father figure, and his family like a second family, before Fox began grooming her for sex in 1990, when she was 15. She said he frequently complimented her on her looks, bought her gifts, and peppered her with kisses on the cheek and mouth. She said Fox’s advances made her feel “uncomfortable and gross,” but she didn’t want to upset Fox or jeopardize their father-daughter relationship.

“I  didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, it’s very clear that he had groomed me,” Durbin said in 2019.

Durbin said when she informed Bruce Goddard of what was happening, he did not contact police, but instead transferred Fox  to another church out of state. She said Goddard’s wife called her a “homewrecker.”

Fox’s attorney, Paul Grech, said in a telephone interview Friday that Fox pleaded guilty because it was “the right thing to do,” and that he takes responsibility for his actions.

“He’s carried this sense of guilt for the last 30 years, and he wants to make this right,” said Grech, adding that Fox left the ministry prior to Durbin reporting what happened to law enforcement.

“His conscience would not allow him to continue in the ministry,” Grech said. “He’s a man of conscience who made an error, and this is the opportunity to correct it, or at least to set it right as best as he’s possibly able.”

The court took into consideration Fox’s age at the time the crimes occurred — he was in his early 30s — the fact he has committed no other crimes, and has otherwise led a “productive and blameless life” ever since, Grech said. Fox plans to publicly apologize to Durbin at his April 30 sentencing, his lawyer said.

La.com reported:

A former Wildomar youth pastor who engaged in sex acts with a girl 30 years ago was bound for state prison Thursday to serve a two-year sentence.

Laverne Paul Fox, 62, pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon to lewd acts on a minor and sexual penetration of a child under 16 years old.

The plea was made directly to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez, without input from the District Attorney’s Office, and in exchange for Fox’s admissions, the judge dismissed a related molestation charge.

In June 2019, the defendant was arrested in Erie, Pennsylvania, and extradited back to Riverside County following an extensive sheriff’s department investigation. He posted a $120,000 bond and was free while awaiting disposition of his case.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Glenn Warrington, detectives became aware of the defendant’s offenses while conducting a separate investigation into the sexual abuse of three teenage girls by another youth pastor, 47-year-old Malo Victor Monteiro of Colton.

Monteiro, who committed the crimes while employed by the First Baptist Church in Wildomar, pleaded guilty in November 2018 to seven sex-related felonies and was sentenced to five years, four months in state prison under a plea agreement authorized by Superior Court Judge Kelly Hansen, also without input from prosecutors.

Court records show that Fox’s assaults on his victim occurred in 1991 and 1992. The locations and circumstances were not detailed, nor was there any indication that Monteiro and Fox were acquainted.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Leader James Dunn II Accused of Sexually Abusing Church Girl

james duran II

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.

James Dunn II, a youth leader at The River Community Church in Ventura, California, stands accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old church girl. Dunn’s father is the pastor of the church.

VC Star reports:

Ventura police arrested a local youth pastor Tuesday after investigating claims of sexual abuse involving a girl who was then 14 and attended the same church.

The accusations date back about eight years, although police said they were only recently made aware of the allegations. Prosecutors have since filed felony charges.

Authorities said they believe there may be more victims.

The Ventura Police Department launched its investigation on Nov. 11 when its special victim’s unit learned of a woman, now 21, who described sexual encounters with the suspect starting in 2013, when she was 14. The case had been referred to police by Ventura County’s Children & Family Services unit.

The case involves The River Community Church, 889 E. Santa Clara St., where the head pastor’s son, Ventura resident James Duran II, now 30, worked as a youth pastor, authorities said. The victim was a member of the church, according to police.

Duran allegedly took the teen girl to “various locations to engage in various sexual activities,” according to the department’s account. The two had a sexual relationship over a two-year period, with some of the sexual encounters taking place during River Community Church activities, authorities allege.

Police officials say the victim developed feelings for Duran and “never reported the events until recently.” Despite the delay, detectives were able to corroborate the victim’s account of her interactions, authorities said.

KTLA-5 adds:

James Edward Duran II, of Ventura, faces a count of oral copulation of a minor under the age of 16 by a person over the age of 21, and one count of oral copulation of a minor under the age of 18, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

Duran was allegedly involved in ongoing sexual activity with a minor from 2013 to 2015, when the victim was was 14 to 16 years old. He had access to the minor while working at the River Community Church, where he was involved with the youth ministry, officials said. The Ventura County Star reported Duran worked as a youth pastor at the church.

Duran was arrested by detectives with the Ventura Police Department on Dec. 8. He was released after posting a $50,000 bail bond, authorities said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday and is scheduled to appear in court for an early disposition conference on Jan. 20.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Brian Pounds Sentenced to Forty-Five Years in Prison for Sexual Assault

pastor brian pounds

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.

Earlier this year, Brian Pounds, pastor of Vernon First Assembly of God in Vernon, Texas, was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl. Pounds is a graduate of Liberty University.

After his original arrest, Pounds was accused of sexually assaulting another teenager.

In July 2021, Times Record News reported:

A Vernon pastor suspected of raping a 15-year-old girl in a church and a motel, choking her and giving her drugs was indicted Wednesday. 

A Wilbarger County grand jury handed down a five-count indictment against Brian Keith Pounds, 45, on Wednesday.

Pounds was indicted on one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, two counts of sexual assault of a child, one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of delivery of methamphetamine to a minor, according to the indictment.  

The offenses are alleged to have happened July 1, according to the indictment. 

Pounds, 45, was being held Friday in Wilbarger County Jail, according to online jail records. 

His bond amounts were not available Friday evening. 

Pounds was held by the Wichita County Jail from July 16 until Friday on total bonds of $300,000 for charges of sexual assault and delivery of drugs to a minor, according to online jail records.

….

“Mr. Pounds has been a pastor in the Vernon community for over a decade,” 46th Judicial District Attorney Staley Heatly said in a media release.

….

Pounds lists himself as lead pastor at Vernon First Assembly of God on his LinkedIn social media account.

He has held that position for nine years and 10 months, according to his LinkedIn account, where his function has been to “Inspire, motivate, and educate people in life’s journey, helping them to debelop [sic] the soul: body, mind, and spirit.”

An affidavit detailed in a previous Times Record News story gave this account

A 15-year-old girl’s mother contacted Vernon police to report her daughter had sexual intercourse with a man later identified as Pounds. 

She told police she was trying to find her daughter when she made contact with Pounds at a motel.

He told her he was a pastor at First Assembly of God and was trying to get a room for someone in need. He rented a room at the motel in the name of the church. 

Officers did not know at the time that Pounds had been in the room with the woman’s daughter. 

Later that day, the woman found her daughter at a Walmart and brought her to the Vernon Police Department.

The girl told police she had been having sex with Pounds and had smoked meth at the motel. 

She told police they had been having sex for about a month, and Pounds had been counseling her and her family through the church.

Pounds denied to police any sexual contact with the girl. He told police he had been helping her and her family as a minister.

Pounds gave the police permission to search the motel room. They found evidence of meth, fibers and hair, leading officers to believe the girl had been there. 

….

She said he began to groom her by getting her a job cleaning houses. She said she would meet Pounds at the church, and he would give her meth. 

She described the meetings at the church as counseling where Pounds offered her meth. She said their first sexual encounter was at the church.

The girl said she told her mother the day she and Pounds got caught. The teenager said Pounds picked her up, gave her meth and had sex with her.

Also, she said Pounds put his hands around her neck and choked her.

In August 2021, the Vernon Record reported:

A new victim has come forward, accusing former Vernon First Assembly of God Pastor Brian Pounds of illegal sexual behavior with a child. The allegations were unsealed Friday and a new charge of sexual assault of a child was added to Pounds, who is currently being held in the Wilbarger County Jail under six Grand Jury indictments.

Jimmy Dennis, secretary of the Vernon Assembly of God board of trustees, said the new allegations saddened the church and were deeply troubling. He said the church was cooperating with authorities in the investigation. Dennis presented the following statement to the newspaper from the church: “As the congregation of Vernon First Assembly, we were deeply saddened and troubled by the news concerning our former pastor Brian Pounds. His tenure as pastor ended with a letter of resignation that was submitted by him and read to the congregation on Sunday, July 18. We are cooperating fully with local authorities as they investigate this situation. We understand how hurtful and heart-wrenching these allegations are and our hearts, our prayers, and our sincere apologies go out to the family and those in our community who, along with us, have been affected by these tragic events.”

Pounds was charged with a new count of sexual assault of a child on Friday. The new allegation refers to an incident that occurred sometime around Oct. 1, 2013 according to a probable cause affidavit from the Texas Rangers, and it was uncovered as part of the investigation into the initial accusation.

Pounds was aware, on July 1, that he was under investigation from accusations made by a 15-year-old girl. As the week progressed and a case was built, Pounds became suicidal. On July 5, 2021 the affidavit states Vernon police responded to Pounds residence because it was “reported he was threatening suicide.” Police removed a 38-caliber revolver handgun from the residence, and also located 38 caliber ammo at the church in Pound’s desk. Pounds reportedly checked into Red River Hospital in Wichita Falls.

The affidavit states that on July 14, investigators conducted an interview with Pounds’ wife Amy, at her residence in Vernon: “Amy was asked about any knowledge of inappropriate activities by Brian, including any extramarital affairs, inappropriate relationships, or methamphetamine use. Amy denied any knowledge of indiscretions, affairs, or methamphetamine use by Brian.”

Pounds was arrested on July 16 at the Wichita Falls hospital and booked into the Wichita County Jail.

While he was incarcerated, investigators reviewed phone calls Pounds made: “During these calls, Brian and Amy began discussing additional potential charges that could be filed against him. Brian identified (the new victim) to Amy by her first name, Brian inferred that if the additional charges are related to (the new victim) it would be bad. Amy told Brian, “I know.” Brian became extremely emotional saying, “I’m a dead man.’ Brian told Amy his involvement with (the new victim) was a long time ago and that “it has never mattered how sorry [he] was.”

During a follow-up interview: “Amy was confronted with the information obtained from the recorded jail calls between her and Brian. Amy confirmed she was dishonest during her initial interview regarding Brian’s involvement with other females and his methamphetamine use. Amy confirmed she knew of Brian being involved in exchanging inappropriate text messages with (the new victim) in the past though she denied any knowledge of a sexual relationship between the two.”

Investigators determined the identity of the new victim and interviewed her, they said she became extremely distraught, and agreed to give details of the alleged assaults.

She said about seven years ago, at age 15, she was sexually assaulted at the church and the assaults continued for about two years at both the church and Pound’s home. She said the first incident began when she participated in a youth group activity at the First Assembly of God church as they were playing a game called “Murder in the dark.”

She said Pounds would turn off the lights and the kids would hide in places around the church. She said when Pounds found her, he groped her. In another instance Pounds invited her to the church for a youth group activity, but she found only Pounds there. She said he told her to go wait in his office, until everyone else arrived. Instead he came in and locked the door. She alleged he made her disrobe and forced her to perform sex acts. On another occasion in the church office, she said Pounds put a revolver to her head and told her if she ever told anyone of the incidents he would kill her and himself.

In December 2021, Pounds pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Ministry Watch reports:

A former pastor in Vernon, Texas, has been sentenced to 45 years in prison after he pleaded guilty last week to aggravated sexual assault of a child.

rian Keith Pounds was arrested in July and accused of raping a 15-year-old girl when he was minister at First Assembly of God Church and a chaplain at Tyson Foods.  

An affidavit filed in the case said he groomed the girl by getting her a job cleaning houses for elderly people, then began to have sex with her at the church and in a motel room, giving her methamphetamines and, in at least one instance, choking her. 

He also had been counseling the girl’s family through the church. 

Pounds was charged with three additional counts of sexual assault of a child after he revealed the existence of another victim during a phone call to his wife in August from the Wichita County Jail, where he was being held on $200,000 bail.

Pounds was sentenced in the 46th District Court of Wilbarger County. According to the Wichita Falls Times Record News, Staley Heatly, 46th District Attorney, said that under Texas law Pounds will be required to serve at least half of his sentence, and that sex offenders generally serve more than that. 

“Brian Pounds abused his position of trust as a pastor in the most horrific way,” Heatly said. “Our community and our children are much safer with him in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Lindsey Melnick Accused of Sexual Assault

lindsey melnick

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.

Lindsey Melnick, pastor of Breakthrough Church in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, stands accused of sexually assaulting a fifteen-year-old girl.

PennLive reports:

Police charged a Perry County church pastor with four felonies after a woman told police she was molested 10 years ago by the pastor when she was 15.

Pennsylvania State Police arrested Lindsey Melnick, 36, on Monday in connection with charges of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact of a minor. The charges allege Melnick sexually assaulted the teen several times a week for about one year starting in August 2011.

At the time, Melnick was about 26 and had been the girl’s soccer coach at a school and a church counselor at summer camp, according to court records.

Melnick is listed as the pastor of the Breakthrough Church in Duncannon, according to the church website.

Her next court hearing was set for Jan. 11. She is free on $15,000 unsecured bail.

According to the report filed by the Pennsylvania State Police:

A woman told police in July she felt she was “manipulated and groomed” by Melnick when they first met in 2010, and also a teacher aide for most of her classes while she was in eighth grade.

They would pass a notebook back and forth during class, Melnick gave her a cell phone, and they communicated by that cell phone and through Facebook, including a “fake” account that Melnick allegedly created under the name Sophia Martin, according to police.

The victim said if she didn’t answer phone calls from Melnick, the woman would become angry with her so she felt she had to take her calls. Melnick also snuck into her parents’ home dozens of times using a hidden key, the court records said. Melnick would hide under her bed, the girl said.

Eventually, the girl said, she started sleeping on her parents’ floor to avoid Melnick.

Melnick eventually became controlling of “every aspect of her life,” according to court records, which said Melnick resigned from the school soccer team because teachers and staff members “were catching on” to what was going on.

Melnick would pick her up from her friends’ homes or events and take her to a graveyard.

A youth group teammate confirmed to police in July that she saw Melnick giving the girl a back massage at an event at someone’s home when they were 14 to 15 years old, according to the report.

The teammate said Melnick spent the night and when she would leave the room to get a drink of water or something, she would return to see Melnick on top of the victim, giving the girl a back massage. But when she entered the room, Melnick would “stop what she was doing and act like nothing had happened,” according to the report written by police.

Police recovered Facebook messages from the account of “Sophia Martin” in December 2011 to the girl that said she was angered “about how you were torn away from me.”

Melnick’s church bio page states:

Lindsey Melnick is a 2008 gradute [sic] of Colorado Christian Univeristy [sic] and a 2019 graduate of Liberty Univeristy [sic]. She has degrees in both Youth Ministry and Professional Counseling. This blend of Biblical knowledge and Mental Health training allows her to have a good balance of Scriptural teaching and counseling. 

She has a passion for sharing Jesus with all, discipling believers, and helping people heal spiritually. She focuses on Bibilical [sic] teaching, Youth Ministry, and Outreach opportunities. 

She loves Penn State Football, her dogs [sic] Scout and Sherlock, and all types of pasta, especially Mac & Cheese. If you would like to get ahold of Lindsey please e-mail her at XXXXXXXXX.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser