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Black Collar Crime (April 2018)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Steven Winn, 33, Crandall, TX: 3 counts of sexual assault of a child. Winn, a youth pastor at Open Door Baptist Church, is accused of assaults on an alleged victim who is 15.

Open Door senior pastor Matt Jarrell hanged himself in jail in 2011 after his arrest on a rape charge in West Virginia. Source: Dallas News, 2-27-18

Philip “Flip” Benham, 69, Concord, NC: Communicating threats. Benham, an ordained Free Methodist minister who leads Operation Save America, is accused of threatening a woman at A Preferred Woman’s Health Clinic in Charlotte during a protest against legal abortion.

The clinic volunteer told a reporter Benham approached her “menacingly” and “repeatedly” and said “You are dead.” Benham responded that there was no such threat, that he actually told her she was “dead in her sins.”

Defending Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore last year against charges that he dated and assaulted girls in their teens, Benham said, “There is something about a purity of a young woman, there is something that is good, that’s true, that’s straight, and he looked for that.” Source: WSOC, 2-26-18

An unidentified imam in Temara, Morocco, is accused of sexual assaults on 6 children at a mosque where he had started an elementary school. After parents of a child reported an alleged assault, 5 other families made similar accusations.

Parents of an alleged victim reportedly witnessed the imam molesting their 8-year-old son after they were alerted by a watch group that he was alone with the boy at the school. Source: Morocco World News, 2-21-18

David Rowan, 62, Milton, FL: Sexual battery by an authority figure, 3 counts of rape and 2 counts of unlawful sexual contact. Rowan, pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, is accused of assaults on 14- and 15-year-old sisters at a hotel in Murfreesboro, TN, when he was guest speaker at a religious convention in 2014.

The girls and their mother knew him before his visit to Tennessee, a police report said: “The victims looked up to Pastor Rowan and counted on him for spiritual guidance.” Source: Murfreesboro News, 2-20-18

Anthony Morris, 49, Zelda Morris, 46, and Kamali Morris, 19, Toledo, OH: Aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Anthony Morris is pastor at St. Paul’s AME Zion Church, and Zelda and Kamali are his wife and daughter. They are charged in an incident with Nickema Turner, 39, who was teaching Sunday school when the Morrises allegedly attacked Turner, pointed a gun at her and took items from her purse. According to the police report, Zelda stated to Turner’s daughter, “You wanna know why this happened? It happened because your mom slept with my husband.” Source: ABC 13, 2-19-18

Aryeh Goodman, 35, East Brunswick, NJ: Engaging in prostitution with a child and endangering the welfare of a child. Goodman, a rabbi who operates a religious learning center (chabad) from his home and may be affiliated with another at a separate location, is accused of having sex Feb. 1 with a 17-year-old girl at a hotel.

Two others are charged with trafficking for allegedly selling the girl’s services to about 30 men in January and February. Goodman was sentenced in 2015 to 11 to 23 months in prison after pleading guilty to 2 counts of indecent assault involving a boy in 2001 at Camp Menachem in Pennsylvania, where he was a counselor. Source: Courier News, 2-19-18

Maurice Frazier, 51, Indianapolis: Coercion and enticement, sexual exploitation of a child, possession of child pornography, offense by a registered sex offender and 6 counts of receipt of child pornography. Frazier, associate minister at Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church, is accused of multiple assaults on a 14-year-old girl he met through the church.

He’s also accused of persuading the girl to send nude photos of herself and threatening to retaliate if she reported him to police, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Frazier is married with 4 children. Source: Indianapolis Star, 2-15-18

Otho Schilling, 58, Mount Hermon, LA: Theft of government funds, amounting to over $200,000. Schilling, pastor of a unidentified church in Bush between 2005-16, is accused of concealing his earnings and employment from the Social Security Administration while receiving Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance of $1,728 a month.

He had the church pay personal expenses such as health care and insurance premiums, car payments and a personal land note in lieu of being paid a salary, the indictment said. Source: Times-Picayune, 2-15-18

Brian S. Dicken, 37, Winchester, VA:  2 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. Dicken, former associate pastor of Church of Christ at Mountain View, is accused of assaults on a girl younger than 18 in late 2014 and early 2015.

He’s listed as lead minister on the website for Broad Creek Christian Church, New Bern, NC, including a photo with his wife and 6 children. Source: Winchester Star, 2-15-18

Anthony Oelrich, 51, St. Cloud, MN: 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct. Oelrich, pastor at Christ Church Newman Center Catholic Student Community, was arrested after an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct involving an adult woman.

In 2014, parishioners got a written notice that Oelrich was taking “voluntary leave for ‘depression, anxiety, and stress’ ” to receive treatment at St. Luke Institute, which provides mental health services for priests, deacons and members of religious communities. Source: St. Cloud Times, 2-13-18

Gerardo Martinez, 52, New Port Richey, FL: 2 counts of sexual battery/custodial authority solicits victim. Martinez, pastor of Miracle Christian Church, is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl on multiple occasions from April to October 2017 after telling her she had multiple personalities and that one of them was possessed by a demon.

They allegedly had sex in a back room at the church, at her home and in the parking lot of a Publix grocery store. Source: WFLA, 2-12-18

Douglas Rivera, 40, Baldwin Park, CA: Child molestation, indecent exposure and burglary. Rivera, pastor of God’s Gypsy Christian Church in Glendale, is accused of masturbating in his pickup parked outside a motel room occupied by 2 girls from China ages 10 and 13.

He masturbated and stared at the girls for about half an hour before knocking on the door, forcing his way inside and sexually assaulting one of the girls, alleged Covina police Lt. Trevor Gaumer. Surveillance video led to his arrest. Source: Valley Tribune, 2-12-18

An unidentified woman in her 50s was arrested in Israel and awaits extradition to Australia on 74 counts of sexual abuse of girls at an ultra-Orthdox school she headed in Melbourne. She allegedly molested 3 sisters separately at Adass Israel School from 2001-08 to “get them ready” for marriage. She fled to Israel in 2014.

The sisters allege they were targeted because they came from a dysfunctional home. Source: Haaretz, 2-12-18

Richard Cecil, 47, N. Fort Myers, FL: Soliciting prostitution. Cecil, the former pastor of The Father’s House who now runs a ministry with his wife from their home, is accused of offering to pay $200 to an undercover officer for sex at a hotel.

“Richard’s extensive Hebraic insight, humorous, dynamic and engaging style endear him to a wide spectrum of pastoral engagements and ministry opportunities,” said a Facebook post about the couple’s November appearance at Bible Temple Church in Toledo, OH. Source: WBBH, 2-12-18

Albert L. Phillips, 74, Sarasota, FL: Lewd or lascivious conduct on victims under 12 and under 16. A 15-year-old girl alleged to police in December that Phillips, former pastor of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, started touching her sexually when she was 4 and living with the Phillips family. Source: WFLA, 2-12-18

Sean M. Massaro, 24, New Milford, NJ: Theft. Massaro, director of children and youth ministries at All Saints Church, is charged with stealing $582 from the collection basket over a 5-week period. Church officials brought surveillance video to police. Source: Citizen Voice, 2-12-18

George N. Gregory, Munhall, PA: Open lewdness and indecent exposure. Gregory, pastor at Waterfront Christian Community Church, was allegedly found by police in the back seat of a vehicle with another man naked and tied up in the front seat.

A citizen called police after allegedly seeing the naked man exit the vehicle and expressed concern because it was parked in view of his daughter’s bedroom window.

“I was counseling a young man with a drug problem,” Gregory told a reporter. “It did turn strange, but it wasn’t my doing, OK?  . . . And I was adamant that I’m not participating in that way. And so that’s when the police pulled up, and they assume things, but I’m standing by my story.” Source: KDKA, 2-10-18

David Cooper, 43, Eloise, FL: Sexual battery and lewd exhibition on a victim under 12. Cooper, pastor of Mountain Movers Ministries, is accused of exposing himself 4 times last year to a 7-year-old girl.

According to the complaint, the girl told her mother that Cooper put his “pee pee” in her “no-no” several times and that Cooper told the girl that a woman she knew let him do it to her when she was little.

An affidavit alleged the woman, now 32, told investigators Cooper molested her for about 2 years, starting when she was 10. Cooper apologized to her several times in a phone conversation deputies listened to, Sheriff Grady Judd said. Source: Lakeland Ledger, 2-9-18

David P. Carson, 63, Tampa, FL: Sexual assault. Carson, pastor at In My Father’s House Church and a math teacher at Hillsborough Community College, is charged with assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Another adult allegedly witnessed part of the attack. Source: WFTS, 2-8-18

Caleb Gaston, 21, Wichita, KS: Aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Gaston, who worked at Kid Zones at both the Downtown and East YMCAs, is accused of assaulting a 4-year-old girl in January. Kid Zone employees watch children while parents are exercising or taking classes. Areas are surveilled by video.

Gaston’s employment at Plymouth Learning Center, a church preschool, was “terminated on 10/9/17 due to one complaint of inappropriate touching,” said a statement from Plymouth Congregational Church. Source: Wichita Eagle, 2-6-18

Barbara L. Fouts, 56, Dennison, OH: 2 counts of grand theft. Fouts, treasurer of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, is accused of stealing from the church from 2012-16. “The accountant found that there were $63,299.60 in disbursements that could not be accounted for due to lack of records,” said prosecutor Scott Deedrick. “There were $43,911.72 of disbursements not authorized by the [board.]” Fouts disbursed about $34,000 of that total.

“Of that amount, $24,283.67 is alleged to have been disbursed by [Fouts] to herself or for her benefit,” Deedrick alleged. Source: Times-Reporter, 2-6-18

W. Thomas Faucher, 72, Boise, ID: 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a child, 2 counts of distributing sexually exploitative material and 2 counts of possession of a controlled substance. Faucher, who retired in 2015 as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, talked in an online chat of his “desires to rape and kill children,” prosecutor Cathy Guzman said at a probable cause hearing.

He allegedly possessed and traded images of infants and toddlers subjected to sexual acts and other physical abuse. A search also found marijuana, LSD and Ecstasy, Guzman said. Source: Idaho Statesman, 2-5-18

Kenneth L. Fairbanks, 61, Greensboro, NC: 4 counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act on a child under 16. Fairbanks, pastor at Faithworks Ministry, is accused of assaults on 4 church members from 1997 to 2016. Source: WGHP, 2-1-18

Garry Evans, 72, and Gay Evans, 70, Rushville, IN: Criminal trespass. Gay Evans is also charged with resisting law enforcement. The couple are accused of refusing to leave a residence where they wanted to speak with their son’s girlfriend. A family member ended up chasing them off with a baseball bat.

Garry Evans, pastor of Rushville Baptist Temple, was arrested in October 2017 on multiple counts of child molestation and sexual battery involving girls ages 3, 5 and 7. He tried unsuccessfully to kill himself after another alleged victim came forward. It’s unclear if the sexual charges are tied to the trespassing. Source: Greensburg Daily News, 2-1-18

John A. Sarro, 76, Elkton, MD: Unlawful sexual intercourse and unlawful sexual contact. Sarro was pastor at St. Helena Catholic Parish in Bellefonte, DE, in 1991-94, when the crimes involving a girl under 16 are alleged.

He was removed from public ministry in 1997 by the Diocese of Wilmington after allegations of sexual abuse in the 1980s in New Guinea, where he was serving as a Marist missionary. He’s been living in a monitored residence since 2002, according to the diocese. Source: News Journal, 1-31-18

Dorothy Nicolo, 70, Tallahassee, FL: Grand theft, fraud to obtain over $50,000, illegal use of credit cards and passing a forged instrument. Nicolo, volunteer treasurer for 24 years at Aenon Baptist Church, is accused of stealing $119,000 from the church between 2012-17. Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 1-25-18

Matthew F. Pinder, 43, Palm Harbor, FL: Sexual battery with custodial authority. Pinder taught at Calvary Christian High School in 2009 when the incidents with a 16-year-old student are alleged. Before that he taught at Indian Rocks Christian School.

Authorities suspect there are other victims. Pinder allegedly admitted to detectives he assaulted the student at least twice. Source: Tampa Bay Times, 1-25-18

Harry Maxwell, 66, Shermans Dale, PA: Unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, criminal use of a communication facility and drug possession.

Maxwell, youth pastor at an unidentified church, is charged with selling the painkiller Oxycodone. Source:, 1-26-18

Ralph G. Stair, 84, Canadys, SC: 3 counts of criminal sexual conduct, assault with the intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, assault, burglary and criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Stair, founder of Overcomer Ministry, came under investigation after video surfaced from church services from last July to October. One clip shows  him calling a 12-year-old girl to the front and putting his hand between her breasts. “Growing up,” he said, adding while she returned to her seat, “I’m gonna touch those things till nobody else can touch ’em.”

Charges involve at least 35 alleged acts involving another girl in 1998-99. Stair pleaded guilty in 2002 to assault and battery for sexual touching of 2 underage girls from the church. Source: CBS Charleston, 1-18-18

Pleaded / Convicted

Tadhg O’Dalaigh, 74, Dublin: Guilty by jury of indecent assault on a 12-year-old boy at Christmas time in 1980 at an Irish boarding school where O’Dalaigh taught as a Sacred Heart Missionaries Catholic priest.

The complainant, now in his 40s, testified O’Dalaigh came in the sick bay to check his temperature: “He put his hand down and touched my testicles and penis. He did that. I just lay there. I didn’t know what to do. It was probably a minute, a minute and a half. That is a long time when he is at me. He stopped. He left.”

O’Dalaigh has earlier assault convictions in 1999 and 2014. Source: Irish Examiner, 2-22-18

Ifor Whittaker, 73, London: Guilty by jury of 7 counts of gross indecency and conspiracy for assaults on a boy between 1987-93, starting when the boy was 10 and Whittaker was an Anglican priest. Roy Cotton, a priest who died in 2006 and was never charged, facilitated the abuse with Whittaker, according to the prosecution. Source: BBC, 2-22-18

Charles A. Barnett, 72, an Australian Catholic priest sentenced to 6½ years in 2010 for molesting 4 teen boys between 1977-94, pleaded guilty to indecent assault and persistent sexual exploitation of 2 more victims. One boy testified Barnett sneaked into his room through a window to molest him. Source: ABC Online, 2-19-18

Donald C. Biggs, 39, Medford, OR: Pleaded guilty to transporting with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Biggs, youth pastor at Mountain Church, was accused of secretly recording girls in the nude at his home and on church trips between 2012-14.

It’s alleged he encouraged “messy” activities requiring students to change clothes or shower. At church camps he allegedly used “punishments” such as covering a camper in syrup and flour. Source: Mail Tribune, 2-16-18

Harry L. Thomas, 74, Medford Township, NJ: Pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and 3 counts of sexual assault. Thomas, pastor of Come Alive Church, admitted molesting 5 girls between the ages of 7 and 10 from 1999 to 2015.

Thomas founded Creation Festivals, which now bills itself as the largest U.S. Christian music festival, and Come Alive International, a missionary organization. Source: Courier Post, 2-16-18

An unidentified Catholic priest, 58, was arrested in Mexico City on charges of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor for allegedly assaulting a 12-year-old girl after her mother left her at church to study catechism. The girl fled and her mother contacted police. Source: AP, 2-16-18

Thomas Thanninilkumthadathil, 44, Kallara, India: Rape, theft, criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt. Thanninilkumthadathil, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest, is accused of raping and robbing a 42-year-old Bangladeshi woman from England after they met on Facebook.

The woman told police that he raped her repeatedly during her weeklong February visit and stole her gold jewelry, mobile phone and about $1,800. Source: The News Minute, 2-16-18

Matthew Tague, 44, San Marcos, CA: Pleaded guilty to lewd acts on a child under 14. Tague, pastor at North Coast Calvary Chapel, allegedly admitted to investigators that he repeatedly molested a girl in 2016-17 when she was 12 and 13. He turned himself in after his wife caught him molesting a relative, an affidavit said. Source: Union-Tribune, 2-15-18

John Bishop, 54, Vancouver, WA: Pleaded guilty to unlawful importation of a controlled substance. Bishop, pastor at Living Hope Church, was arrested at the Mexican border in San Ysidro, CA, in possession of 282 pounds of marijuana. Source: AP, 2-9-18

Lethebo Rabalago, the South African “Doom Pastor,” was found guilty of 5 counts of assault and of contravening the Agricultural Stock Remedies Act by a court in Limpopo province.

Rabalago, prophet of Mt. Zion General Assembly, sprayed the insecticide Doom on multiple congregants in 2016, claiming it could cure various ailments, including cancer and HIV. Source: BBC, 2-9-18

James D. Arbaugh, 40, Stuarts Draft, VA: Pleaded guilty to traveling in foreign commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. Arbaugh admitted “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with at least 21 boys as young as 5 in Haiti as a Mennonite missionary between 2008-17. Source: Times-Dispatch, 2-6-18

Dennis Engelbrecht, 58, Nevada, MO: Pleaded guilty to illegally collecting $91,000 in Social Security disability benefits from 2011-15. Engelbrecht, pastor of Pentecostal Assembly of God, was paid a weekly salary of $650 but failed to report his employment status, prosecutors said. Source: Kansas City Star, 1-29-18


Jordan Baird, 26, Warrenton, VA: 8 months in jail, 5 years’ probation and $12,000 restitution to the victim’s family after a jury found him guilty of 5 counts of indecent liberties with a minor by a custodian. He pleaded no contest to electronic solicitation of a minor. Baird used his position as son of the leader of the Life Church and as a Christian pop singer to manipulate girls and women into having inappropriate relationships with him, prosecutors charged.

The judge barred testimony from 3 other alleged victims as prejudicial to Baird. According to testimony, the church ordered an investigation, which was conducted by Steve Dawson, a close friend of Baird and former co-pastor.

Prosecutor David Gross suggested Dawson left out key details of his probe when he was interviewed by police and refused to share his notes with law enforcement. Source: Prince William Times, 2-21-18

Steve Brack, Brookville, IN: 9 months’ home detention, 400 hours’ community service and $5,217 restitution after pleading guilty to felony theft. Brack was accused of stealing from Whitcomb United Methodist Church, where he was a trustee, and from the Brookville Kiwanis Club.

A State Police detective testified that the restitution was likely only a fraction of what Brack stole because the statute of limitations barred charges for older suspected thefts. A church member said profits from the church’s county fair food tent went up 50% after Brack was not allowed to handle money. Thousands of dollars are also missing from the 1999 sale of the church parsonage. Source: Democrat-American, 2-21-18

Alfredo P. Arias, 51, Aurora, IL: 205 days in jail, with credit for time served, and deportation to Colombia after pleading guilty to battery. Arias lost his religious worker visa after he was charged with fondling 2 girls under age 6 as pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Source: Chicago Tribune, 2-12-18

Robert Gamel, 67, Merced, CA: 4 years in prison after pleading no contest to possessing child pornography. During a probation check, Gamel, former lead priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Los Banos, was found to be in possession of the same nude images of a female teenage parishioner he was convicted for in 2016.

Gamel told investigators the photos he kept in a briefcase in a closet weren’t new and he wasn’t sure how to destroy them. “This isn’t rocket science,” Judge Jeanne Schechter said. “You just destroy it.” Source: Sun-Star, 2-8-18

Thirty-one Pakistani Muslims were sentenced for the April 2017 murder in Mardan of Mashal Khan, 23, a university student whom they accused of posting blasphemous material online. Imran Sultan Muhammad was sentenced to death, 5 others received life imprisonment and 25 others received 4-year sentences. Khan was stripped, beaten and shot before being thrown from his 2nd-floor dormitory.

Video footage shows a mob beating and stomping Khan’s lifeless body. A court determined the blasphemy charge was baseless. Source: AFP, 2-8-18

Benjamin Nelson, 27, Waco, TX: 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to online solicitation of a minor and 2 counts each of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. Nelson, pastor at Peoria Baptist Church and a seminary student at Baylor University, was accused of posing as a teen to meet and eventually seduce a 13-year-old girl. Source: Tribune-Herald, 2-6-18

Benjamin L. Petty, 36, Spencer, OK: 15 years’ probation, wear an ankle monitor for 2 years and sex offender registration after pleading guilty to rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation. Petty, a cook at a Texas church camp, was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 2016 after tying her up.

Prosecutor David Pyle said major factors in deciding not to seek prison time were that Petty is “legally blind” and that the family signed off on the plea agreement. The family has filed a civil suit. Defendants are the First Baptist Church of Terrell, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the Country Estates Baptist Church. Source:, 1-30-18

Joni Stinson, 42, Ottumwa, IA: 10 years in prison suspended, 5 years’ probation and $160,000 restitution after pleading guilty to theft as bookkeeper at Ottumwa Christian School since 2010. She has paid back $50,000 so far. Source: Ottumwa Courier, 1-26-18

Stephen J. Howard, 58, Fontana, CA: 308 years to life in prison for 32 convictions of lewd act upon a child, oral copulation of a person under 16 and sodomy of a person under 18. Before his 2014 arrest, Howard was lead pastor at Muscoy United Methodist Church.

Prosecutors said the 4 male victims’ current ages range from 14 to 36. Source: Fontana Herald, 1-25-18

Civil Lawsuits Filed

Cameron McDonald, Lexington, KY, pastor of Southern Acres Christian Church, is accused in a suit filed by church member James Keogh of embezzlement, unlawful conversion of funds and unjust enrichment for allegedly using $100,000 of a $170,000 donation to pay the mortgage on his home. Keogh claims the 2016 donation was meant to pay off the church’s $144,000 mortgage.

The complaint alleges McDonald fired the church’s office manager to stop her from providing financial information to law enforcement. Source: Herald-Leader, 2-20-18

Louis Brouillard, former Catholic priest, is accused by Guam plaintiff “ABL” of raping him at least 8 times in the parish rectory in 1971 when he was 14. Brouillard allegedly walked around naked before telling him it was “natural and normal” to have sex, the complaint says.

The church on Guam now faces 157 lawsuits seeking at least $1.03 billion in damages because of alleged abuse by priests and others associated with the church. Source: Pacific Daily News, 2-19-18

Joseph White, 81, founder of the Church of the Living God International, is accused in a suit filed by 5 male church members of sexual abuse and harassment over a period of more than 20 years. The Pentecostal church is headquartered in Columbus, OH, and has 102 locations worldwide. White, long dogged by abuse allegations, started it in 1994 after being forced out of the Church of the Living God.

Formal accusations were made last June to the church’s board of directors (2 members are White’s sisters) but results of its investigation haven’t been disclosed. Source: Columbus Dispatch, 2-6-18

John Wright, former pastor of Mid-City Church of the Nazarene in San Diego is accused in a suit of sexual harassment and rape by plaintiff Amy McClanahan, 23. The church is a co-defendant for alleged negligent hiring/supervision. McClanahan met Wright in 2014 when he was her professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. She told him that a family member had molested her and he offered to counsel her, the complaint says, and they eventually started having sex. Wright’s wife was co-pastor.

The Wrights have countersued, alleging the relationship was consensual and that McClanahan had “agreed at all times that she would keep the relationship secret from all other persons” and that she exposed the affair only after John Wright broke it off in October 2017. Source: San Diego Reader, 2-1-18

The Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM, is being sued by 4 more men alleging sexual abuse as children by priests Sabine Griego and the late Wilfred Bombardier. Griego was removed from the priesthood in 2005. At least 74 similar suits have been filed in recent years. 

An Albuquerque man, now in his 50s, alleges Bombardier repeatedly molested him at Blessed Sacrament Parish and told him “participating in this special altar boy training was his ‘ticket to heaven.’ ” Source: Albuquerque Journal, 1-28-18

Robert and Cindy Litzinger, former senior pastors at the Church for Life in Santa Maria, CA, are defendants along with the church in a suit filed by parishioner “Jane Doe,” who alleges sexual battery, assault and harassment from 2014-16. Doe a mother of 2 in her 30s, asserts that she has discovered over a dozen women who had similar experiences. Cindy Litzinger assisted, facilitated and encouraged Robert’s conduct, the complaint said.

Doe alleges that in church premarriage classes, Robert told women how to masturbate and have an orgasm to be “prepared and willing to do whatever their husbands wanted” and shared photos of him and his wife in bed.

Robert Litzinger allegedly groped Doe’s breasts and genitals during a prayer group meeting at his home, which Doe complained about to Cindy, who allegedly called that an “innocent mistake.” Source: Santa Maria Times, 1-18-18

Civil Lawsuits Settled

First Baptist Church of Columbia, SC, agreed to apologize and pay $300,000 to settle a case involving a child who was allegedly molested by Andrew McCraw, volunteer youth mentor. “Joel Doe” and his parents alleged McCraw started molesting him about 6 years ago when he was 11.

“We are sorry that this young man was wronged and that our policies and procedures as well as our enforcement of those policies and procedures were insufficient to protect him,” said a statement read to parishioners at Feb. 4 services. A separate suit against McCraw is pending. Source: Baptist Press, 2-6-18


The Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, MD, awarded $500,000 to Thomas McGarvey for alleged long-term sexual abuse in the 1980s by priest Robert L. Brown through a compensation fund set up by the diocese.

“Whatever settlement they gave me is not going to wipe out the pain that I went through,” said McGarvey, who was 16 when he went to Brown for counseling. Brown died in the mid-1990s. Source: Newsday, 2-13-18

Walter Diggles, 61, pastor at Lighthouse Church in Jaspar, TX, and his wife Rosie Diggles have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. They were convicted last year of wire fraud and money laundering for diverting $1.3 million in hurricane relief money but haven’t been sentenced.

From 2007-12 while executive director at the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, Walter Diggles funneled money to a nonprofit he ran and then to church accounts for his family’s personal use, court documents said. Source: Beaumont Enterprise, 1-12-18

Legal Developments

Fernando Sayasaya, a Catholic priest accused of molesting 2 North Dakota boys, was extradited from the Philippines. He’s charged with 2 counts of gross sexual imposition for alleged abuse of underage siblings from 1995-98 while assigned to 2 parishes in the Fargo area.

A Philippines court ordered his extradition in 2010 but he appealed and wasn’t arrested until late 2017. Source: AP, 2-15-18

A Brooklyn, NY, yeshiva agreed to pay the city $22,500 for continuing to hold religious services in a building the city deemed unsafe. Abraham Low, a rabbi and director of Yeshiva Kollel Tifereth Elizer, answered a criminal summons from the Department of Buildings and accepted the fine.

After a fire in August 2015, inspectors found the building had no certificate of occupancy and sprinkler system and was illegally occupied as a house of worship. Several orders to vacate the property were ignored. Source: NY Post, 2-11-18


Church of England spending for sexual abuse issues has increased fivefold since 2014 and the church faces over 3,300 allegations of abuse by clergy and volunteers.

The vast majority relate to “children, young people and vulnerable adults within church communities,” Peter Hancock, bishop of Bath and Wells and the church lead bishop on safeguarding, told the general synod in London. A “deep sense of shame” pervades, he said. Source: The Guardian, 2-10-18

Catholic priest Eduardo Perez, a native Colombian who served parishes in Stockton and Modesto, CA, is being investigated by the Stockton Diocesan Review Board for alleged abuse of a 15-year-old girl who was a member of St. Stanislaus Parish in 1999. Modesto police have also been notified.

Perez later served St. Mary’s Parish in Stockton, where his replacement Dean McFalls resigned in 2013, telling parishioners he was about to become the father of a baby son and could no longer serve as a priest. Source: Stockton Record, 2-9-18

Ronnie Gorton, 39, Munford, TN, pastor of The Awakening Church, has been accused by a juvenile male of sexual assault, molestation and rape, most recently on Jan. 31. “Interviews are being conducted, evidence is being gathered,” said Billy Daugherty, Tipton County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy. “Currently these are just allegations. No warrants have been filed.”

Gorton’s friend told a reporter the pastor had a handgun and was talking about suicide, which law enforcement was notified about. Source: Covington Leader, 2-2-18

Removed / Resigned

Carlos Pineda Gomez, parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Catholic Parish in Council Bluffs, IA, was suspended due to an allegation of a “serious violation of boundary issues related to unwelcome advances toward an adult,” the Diocese of Des Moines announced. He was ordained in December 2016. Law enforcement has been notified. Source: Daily Nonpareil, 2-20-18

Sean Kerins, 27, West Middlesex, PA, was removed as a teacher at Kennedy Catholic High School and as pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd due to a series of inappropriate text messages to a student. Kerins was ordained last June and taught a sophomore course in morality and a senior course in Christian social living.

Diocese of Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico also announced the resignation of David Poulson, 64, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cambridge Springs, due to “credible allegations against Father Poulson regarding the sexual abuse of minors.” Source: Sharon Herald, 2-13-18

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