A United Methodist pastor from Crawford County is in jail, charged with sending sexually explicit Web videos of himself to someone he believed was a 13-year-old girl.
Instead, the Rev. Steven Richard McGuigan was in a Yahoo! Messenger chat room with special agent David Frattare of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Child Predator Unit.
The Rev. McGuigan, 39, was arrested Wednesday at Valley United Methodist Church in Conneautville, which he served along with nearby Hickernell United Methodist Church.
Yesterday he was still jailed on charges of unlawful contact with minors and criminal use of a communication facility, in lieu of $35,000 bail. He faces up to 28 years in prison and $60,000 in fines.
He was immediately removed from all pastoral duties pending outcome of the criminal case and a church investigation, United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton said.
The Rev. McGuigan was appointed to the Conneautville churches in 2004, but was not fully ordained until 2006, according to the Western Pennsylvania Conference Journal. He is married but has no children.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, on Dec. 10, the Rev. McGuigan entered a Yahoo! Messenger's Romance site and began chatting with a purported 13-year-old named "Brianna," the first of seven increasingly explicit chats over about six weeks.
Using a court order, Agent Frattare tracked him down via Yahoo! and his Internet provider.
Tuesday, the state Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit charged the Rev. Steven Richard McGuigan, 39, with unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of a computer.
Rev. McGuigan chatted with the officer at least once from his church, said Attorney General spokesman Nils Frederiksen. From his home, the pastor allegedly masturbated in front of his Web camera.
“This is the Internet version of the rain coat flasher,” Frederiksen said. “They’re using the safety and security of their own homes and the anonymity of the Internet to expose themselves to anyone who happens to be walking along electronically.”
Frederiksen said that besides corrupting minors, lewd Internet transmissions to children escalate into worse behavior and have been increasing in frequency over the years. The office has been cracking down.
On Friday, Dale L. McLaughlin, 44, of 22 Oak Hill Drive Ext., was accused of exposing himself to an agent through cartoon-themed underpants.
McLaughlin was arrested Friday at his workplace, Frederiksen said.
“If you keep your pants on when you’re chatting with 13-year-olds, this will never, ever happen to you,” he said.
Agents gave this account of Rev. McGuigan:
Starting Dec. 10, he logged onto a Yahoo! chatroom and asked the undercover officer personal questions.
He said he was involved in book sales and at first told her, “too bad you’re not older ...”
He didn’t contact the agent between Dec. 13 and Jan. 1.
Then, starting in early January, he asked for nude pictures of the girl and masturbated in a video he sent to her. He later masturbated a second time in front of his Web camera.
With a court order, agents tracked down Rev. McGuigan based on information provided by Yahoo! Inc. They said they charged him because of the graphic and escalating nature of his conversations and Web camera showings.
Escalation is one reason agents go after Web camera predators, Frederiksen said. “The performances often get more elaborate and more extensive, and the sexual discussion often gets more graphic.”