FFRF publishes a monthly newsletter from 20-30 pages long. They cover violations of the Constitution, publish writings by members and students, letters from crackpots, and a monthly "Black Collar Crime Blotter" where they publish news items of those in positions of trust in the religious community who have been charge with various crimes.
Yes, I know that many people who are not in a church hierarchy commit various crimes. But the people listed here are people who are in positions of trust in their communities, and when they commit crimes, it is much worse than your run-of-the-mill criminal. Those who attend church regularly are certainly more gullible and trusting than those who do not, so abusing their trust is much worse than defrauding the regular citizenry.
After all, aren't "good Christians" supposed to be strong enough to resist temptation? Aren't they supposedly pillars of the community? Are they just all crooks, charlatans and criminals? Well, surely not all of them, but a large number.
To me, it would be so easy to start a religion and become a preacher. Fleecing the flock is too easy. I, as an atheist, have the integrity to NOT take advantage of other people. I wish I could say the same for everyone in the church hierarchy.
Black Collar Crime Blotter
Arrested / Charged
Kelly Shannon, Warwick, RI: Possession of child pornography on a cell phone and 7 other counts, including making false statements to police and forcing the alleged victim and other witnesses to make false statements. The bio on her Christian music website says Shannon, who’s married with 2 children, is a graduate of Zion Bible College and “licensed minister (evangelist) with the Assemblies of God.” The alleged victim is a young female relative. The state Attorney General’s Office brought the charges. Court documents allege Shannon made the girl pose and then shared the images on the Internet. The same girl told Warwick police last year she was raped by a teen boy, but more recently she alleged Shannon forced her to lie, telling police Shannon took the photos to teach her how to perform sex acts detailed in the rape allegation. Her bio says she was rescued from abusive surroundings as a youth by a pastor who sent her to bible college. Her signature gospel song is “Rescue Me.” Source: NBC 10, 8-14-15
Vitaly Korchevsky, 50, Glen Mills, PA: Securities fraud. Korchevsky, who leads the Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church in Brookhaven and has chaired the Association of Slavic Baptist Churches USA since 2000, is accused of working for years with Ukrainian hackers on a $100 million insider trading scheme. A parallel civil suit filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission names 21 more defendants. According to his professional biography, Korchevsky became a born-again evangelical in 1981. He later moved to the U.S. and earned an M.B.A. from Regent University, the Virginia college founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. Source: philly.com, 8-12-15
Pablo P. Mata, 46, Montebello, CA: Mata, a Santería priest, is being sought on allegations of sexual assaults occurring during “healing rituals” at his business. It’s alleged he had a 16-year-old girl disrobe on 3 occasions for the ritual in 2013. Police suspect there may be other victims. Source: L.A. Times, 8-6-15
Jerry W. Cox, 72, Franklinton, LA: Structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements. Cox, pastor of Faith Tabernacle, is charged with moving more than $100,000 around in banks in 2011 to avoid reporting it as income. He lives in a multimillion-dollar home a few miles from the church, which owns the tax-exempt property. Cox has close ties to former St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed, who was indicted in April on similar charges and has given thousands of dollars to Faith Tabernacle. Source: WWL, 8-6-15
Larry Bates, Memphis, TN: Multiple counts of fraud for allegedly bilking about 300 victims out of $18 million. Bates and his sons, Charles and Robert Bates, are accused in a federal indictment of targeting individuals seeking advice from a supposed trusted Christian adviser and/or an alleged reputable Christian financial company. From 2002-13, the trio allegedly told potential customers they needed to buy gold and silver to protect themselves from “Mystery Babylon,” a forthcoming economic, political and religious downturn. Source: Memphis Flyer, 8-5-15
Melvin Ollison Sr., 60, Bayboro, NC: 2 counts of 1st-degree rape, 4 counts of 1st-degree sex offense with a child and 3 counts each of 2nd-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a child. Sheriff Chris Davis identified him as a former associate pastor but didn’t release the church’s name. Investigators said Ollison told church members in April he was taking a leave of absence. The 4 alleged victims are Ollison family members all under age 13, the youngest age 5. The first alleged incident was in 1979 and the last in April. Source: WNCT, 8-5-15
Jimmy Chang, 32, East Longmeadow, MA: 12 counts of 2nd-degree sexual assault. Chang, who works at private tutoring center, was a leader of a Christian youth group in Agawam at the time of the alleged assaults in 2012 on a girl in the group. Authorities allege Chang persuaded the girl to sneak out of her house and give up her virginity when she was 17. Her sister told police she found detailed descriptions of the sexual relationship in her sister’s online diary, including a statement that she loved Chang but felt “used and pathetic.” Source Hartford Courant, 8-4-15
Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox extremist who lives in an Israeli West Bank settlement, was arrested for stabbing 6 participants in the back during Jerusalem’s gay pride parade. Shira Banki, 16, died of wounds sustained in the attack. Schlissel was convicted of a similar attack at a pride parade in Jerusalem in 2005 and had been released from prison 3 weeks before after serving 10 years of a 12-year sentence. According to prosecutors, Yishai Schlissel told police in 2005 he had come “to kill in the name of God.” Source: AP, 7-31-15
Karen J. King, 64, Madison, WI: 9 counts of theft, identity theft, forgery and making false representations. King, a part-time secretary at Burke Lutheran Church, is accused of using 4 church credit cards and a checking account to pay for personal items, including trips to Las Vegas and Florida and her cellphone bills. An estimated $34,443 was taken. King was fired in June 2014, The complaint alleges she took collection money after erasing the amounts written down and used the same tactic to alter her time slips to reflect overtime. She was paid $11.56 an hour for 15 to 20 hours a week. Source: State Journal, 7-31-15
Brian K. Burchfield, 42, Shawnee, OK: 1 count each of soliciting and engaging in sexual communications with a minor and violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. Burchfield, young adult pastor at Quail Springs Baptist Church, was fired after being accused of “sexting” 4 boys ages 14 to 17. He met them while working at Immanuel Baptist Church. Police records say text conversations included grooming habits of private areas, genital size and requesting photos from the teens. A police report says Burchfield “invited the juveniles to attend a ‘Man Journey Retreat’ with him” and stay at his in-laws’ lake house in Eufaula in July 2014, the month he was fired. Source: NewsStar, 7-30-15
Oscar Vasquez-Guzman, 38, Indianapolis: Attempted sexual misconduct with a minor, 2 counts of child molesting and 7 counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. Vasquez-Guzman, a pastoral associate with St. Anthony Catholic Church, is accused of sexual contact with 2 boys between the ages of 11 and 15 from Sept. 2013 through July 20, 2015. Court documents said the older boy alleged he was first touched inappropriately when he was 14 and again about a year later when he went to Vasquez-Guzman’s house before a church activity. The boy told investigators Vasquez-Guzman performed oral sex on him and warned him if he told his mother the police would get involved and his family would be deported. Source: Indianapolis Star, 7-29-15
Ezra Sheinberg, 48, Safed, Israel: 12 counts of rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment, fraud and obstructing an investigation. Sheinberg, a rabbi and founder of Orot HaAri Yeshiva, is accused of assaulting 13 women. The married father of 8 was arrested in July at Ben Gurion Airport as he waited for his flight to Brazil. Source: Jerusalem Post, 7-24-15
José Luis Montes Toyos, Madrid, Spain: Money laundering. Montes Toyos, a monsignor and pastor of the Catholic parish of San Ginés, and his brother and a family lawyer are accused by Swiss and Spanish prosecutors of laundering funds linked to the expropriation by the city of Madrid of a farm, thousands of acres of land and valuable paintings. Bank accounts are tied to companies domiciled in Panama and Belize. The period in question is 2004-11. Source: El Mundo, 7-24-15
Thomas Cooperider, 23, Valparaiso, IN: 2 counts of rape and counts of sexual battery. The complaint alleges Cooperider assaulted 3 women during bible study he led in 2014-15 at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton. The women were “so mentally disabled or deficient” that consent could not be given, it’s alleged. Cooperider told police he’d been accepted at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where he planned on studying law. Source: nwi.com, 7-22-15
Joe Habegger, 55, Tarpon Springs, FL: Lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12. Habegger, a physical education teacher at Westlake Christian School in Palm Harbor in 2013-14, is accused of molesting a student who won an auction to spend a day with a teacher outside of school. Deputies said the boy and Habegger began spending time together and that the alleged criminal activity occurred after the school year ended. After Habegger’s contract at Westlake Christian was not renewed, he was hired at Solid Rock Christian School, where he was fired when the principal found out about the allegations. Source: Fox Tampa Bay, 7-21-15
Yanhao “Eric” Ren, 24, Fullerton, CA: Kidnapping, sodomy with a child under 14 and oral copulation with a child under 14. Ren, a youth leader for Evangelical Formosan Church in Rowland Heights, is accused of starting a sexual relationship in May 2015 with a 13-year-old girl who was in his church group. It’s possible there are other alleged victims, authorities said. State Patrol officers found the girl and Ren in a vehicle parked off Hwy. 330 at midnight in an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, a statement said. Source: OC Weekly, 7-15-15
Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, 30, Dharamshala, India: Money laundering. Dorjee is revered by followers as the 17th incarnation of the head of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. He fled Tibet for India at age 14 and is seen as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama, who just turned 80. Aboout $1 million in 26 different foreign currencies was seized in 2011 during a raid on his monastery but charges were dismissed in 2012. Now, the high court in the state of Himachal Pradesh has reinstated the charges. Source: AFP, 7-9-15
Nicholas Lawrence, 27, Pekin, IL: 40 years in prison (mandatory 85% before parole-eligible) after pleading guilty to 2 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault. Lawrence met the victim while teaching bible classes at 2 churches in Peoria Heights. The girl he “groomed” sexually starting when she was 8 in 2010 still thought of him as her “spiritual mentor” when he was arrested in 2014, court records said. Their relationship had continued during his classes in 2013-14 at First Church of God in Pekin. “I am scarred and damaged. I am broken,” the girl wrote in a letter read to the court by the prosecutor. Lawrence “should be considered a monster.” “What I did was appalling and inexcusable,” Lawrence told the judge. “Contrary to popular belief, I can and will reform completely” with therapy in prison. Investigators found 14,000 images on Lawrence’s computer of “child pornography and erotica” featuring children from toddlers to about age 10. Source: Daily Times, 8-12-15
Norman T. Faux, 55, Lake Ariel, PA: 27 months to 15 years in prison and payment of $5,000 in counseling fees for his victim. Faux, a United Methodist pastor, had pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a male juvenile. The assaults started when the boy was 9 and lasted until he was 19, according to court documents. When the boy was 11, he began watching pornographic videos as a distraction while Faux performed oral sex on him. The boy said it happened so many times he lost count. Lead prosecutor Pat Robinson called Faux, who is HIV-positive, “disgusting and despicable. He is an extremely manipulative individual. He blames everybody but himself for his outrageous activity.” Source: Wayne Independent, 7-31-15
Simon Reynolds, 50, Barnsley, UK: 32 months in prison for theft. Reynolds, Anglican vicar at All Saints Church, was found guilty by jury of stealing $37,000 from 2007-13. The money came from fees for weddings and funerals and gravestones. Reynolds fled to Germany while the jury was deliberating but later returned to England and turned himself in. Source: Yahoo News, 7-27-15
Walter Roberson and Robert Young, pastors at VineLife Church, Boulder, CO, pleaded no contest to failure to report child abuse and were sentenced to serve 10 days in jail or on work crew. Church elders Edward Bennell and Warren Williams pleaded no contest to the same charge. Bennell received 2 days in jail or on work crew. Williams was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. All received 1 year of unsupervised probation. The men were all charged for failure to report suspected abuse in 2013 by youth pastor Jason Roberson, who is Walter Roberson’s son. “A message has to be sent that this cannot happen,” said Judge David Archuleta. Jason Roberson, 36, was sentenced to 2 years in prison and 10 years’ intensive probation for a 7-year relationship he started with a female congregant when she was 15. Source: Daily Camera, 7-23-15
Yaakov Deutsch, 63, Afula, Israel: 9 years in prison and a $76,000 fine for molesting 4 teens, 2 boys and 2 girls. Deutsch, a prominent rabbi in the Nazareth area, told a 15-year-old it was “God’s will” for him to penetrate her vaginally and anally in 2008. The indictment alleged she came to his home for a blessing to improve a health condition and that he ordered her to “touch his body and sexual organ, reasoning that energies will pass from his body to hers in such a way and cure her.” Later he started to take liberties with her Source: Arutz Sheva, 7-22-15
Civil Lawsuits Settled
The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee agreed to settle a suit with 330 clergy sex abuse victims for $21 million. Payments to victims will vary and be determined by an independent arbitrator. Archbishop Jerome Listecki said the proposed settlement sets the stage to close a bankruptcy proceeding filed in 2011. The archdiocese objected to all 575 claims filed in bankruptcy court and tried to have hundreds thrown out of court. Peter Isley, Midwest director of SNAP (Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests), said in a statement: “In a perverse and cynical parody of the famous biblical story of King Solomon, it has been announced that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has reached a monetary ‘settlement’ with the Creditors Committee of the nearly 5-year-old church sex abuse bankruptcy. It is exponentially the lowest bankruptcy compensation for victims in the United States.” Subtracting attorneys’ fees reduces the payment to victims by one-third. The average per victim nationwide in clergy sex abuse settlements is about $300,000 compared to $45,000 for the Milwaukee settlement. Source: Source: WITI, 8-4-15
How gruesome photos claiming to show the body of a murdered pedophile priest John Geoghan ended up for sale on the website “Serial Killers Ink” is under investigation by the Massachusetts Dept. of Correction. SKI is known as a “murderabilia” site. The defrocked Catholic priest was convicted of molesting over 100 children. He was sentenced to life and was strangled and beaten to death in his cell in Shirley, MA, at age 68 in 2003 by another inmate, Joseph Druce. In response to a question on Facebook about the photos, allegedly signed by Druce, SKI responded: “They have been sold.” Source: WHDH, 8-8-15
Charles Goodman, 53, Gary, IN: Felony reckless homicide and driving with a suspended license. Goodman, driver of a St. Jude Deliverance Center bus in a fatal crash near Indianapolis, never had a valid driver’s license in Indiana. The 15-person bus, headed to a church youth convention in Ohio, did not have required federal registration for an out-of-state trip, police said. A boy, 6, died in the crash, which “appears to be a result of driver error,” State Police said but did not elaborate. Goodman has numerous citations and misdemeanor arrests in Illinois and Indiana, including illegally transporting alcohol in a vehicle, driving without valid registration and driving with an uninsured motor vehicle, along with a felony burglary conviction. Source: Chicago Tribune, 7-29-15
By the way, this is just a small sampling of the cases printed this month. I kept only the more disgusting, egregious cases.