List of religious leaders convicted of crimes

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This is a list of religious leaders who have been convicted of serious crimes before, during or after their period as a religious leader.

Violent crimes[edit]

  • Wayne Bent (aka: Michael Travesser) - Founder of Lord Our Righteousness Church, sometimes called Strong City. Was convicted of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2008.[4] Was sentenced to 18 years with eight years suspended.[5]
  • William Kamm - An Australian religious sect leader and self-styled Pope Peter II who was sentenced to prison in October 2005 for a string of sexual attacks on a 15-year-old girl. In August 2007 his sentence was increased after being found guilty for a series of sexual abuses against another teenage girl over a five-year period.[10]
  • Theodore Rinaldo - Leader of a religious group in Snohomish, Washington convicted of third-degree statutory rape for having sexual intercourse with one minor girl and of taking indecent liberties with another.[19]
  • Robert Stoner, a 38-year-old youth minister at a Wilmington church, was the only defendant among 15 rape cases similar to a du Pont heir's conviction who never spent time behind bars for his crime. Like Robert H. Richards IV, the wealthy Greenville man who avoided prison time after pleading guilty to raping his daughter, Stoner avoided prison. But unlike Richards, the prosecutor requested at least home confinement for his sentence. At his sentencing, lawyers for both sides mentioned that Stoner had medical issues that they did not specify.

Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. suggested Stoner was seeking a heart transplant, noting during his sentencing hearing that he likely would spend "a great deal of the next part of your life" in the hospital, "assuming they find a heart for you," according to a transcript of the proceeding. [24]

  • Dennis W. Myers A former Independence youth minister who, according to federal authorities, produced child pornography and had a long history of preying upon young victims was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison.

Dennis W. Myers, 53, had pleaded guilty in August to transporting a minor across state lines for illegal sexual activity and to receiving child pornography over the Internet. Myers admitted having sex with a teenage girl whom he had driven from Arkansas to the Kansas City area.

During the sentencing hearing Friday, federal prosecutors said Myers was a sexual predator who received and produced child pornography. He also repeatedly sexually exploited and molested young girls over a 25-year period, the prosecutors said.


  • Robert Lyzenga Robert Lyzenga, the former pastor of Sunrise Christian Reformed Church in Lafayette, admitted Thursday to secretly video-recording women and girls within two church restroom stalls over the course of several months more than two years ago.

Lyzenga, 57, held his composure throughout the hearing and spoke with a stressed but steady tone as he pleaded guilty to all 10 counts, without the benefit of a plea agreement.[26]

  • Jeremy Grinnell Jeremy Grinnell, 42, pleaded guilty Tuesday, May 13, in Kent County Circuit Court to one count of surveilling unclothed persons stemming from the incident on Nov. 7. Grinnell admitted to climbing a ladder propped against a home so he could watch a couple have sex in their bedroom. [27]
  • [[

Non-violent crimes[edit]

  • Jim Bakker - Created the PTL organization. Convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges after illegally soliciting millions of dollars from his followers.[28]
  • Hogen Fukunaga - Founder of Ho No Hana who was given a twelve-year jail sentence for fraudulently gaining 150 million yen from his followers.[29]
  • Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino) - founder of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry. Willful failure to collect, account for, and pay over Federal income taxes, knowingly structuring transactions in Federally-insured financial institutions to evade the reporting requirements, and obstructing and impeding the administration of the internal revenue laws.[30][31]
  • L. Ron Hubbard - Founder of Scientology. He was convicted of petty theft and ordered to pay a $25 fine in San Luis Obispo, California 1948[32] and in 1978 was convicted of illegal business practices, namely, making false claims about his ability to cure physical illnesses in France. He was sentenced to four years in prison, which was never served.[33][34][35][36][37]
  • Luc Jouret - A founder of the Order of the Solar Temple. He was convicted in Canadian Federal Court of conspiring to buy illegal handguns.[38]
  • Henry Lyons - Former President of National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Convicted for racketeering and grand theft.[39]
  • Barry Minkow - Head pastor of San Diego's Community Bible Church, and founder of the Fraud Discovery Institute, who had turned to religion and entered the ministry after release from prison for the notorious ZZZZ Best fraud, returned to prison in 2011 for further acts of securities fraud while serving as a clergyman.[40]
  • Sun Myung Moon - Leader of Unification Church, imprisoned for criminal tax fraud in the 1980s.[41]
  • Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – later called Osho. Fined $400,000 and given a 10-year suspended sentence following a plea bargain agreement in which he made an Alford plea to (1) a charge of having concealed his intent to remain permanently in the U.S. at the time he applied for his visa extension and (2) a charge of having conspired to have followers stay illegally in the country by having them enter into sham marriages.[42] Deported from the United States.[43][44][45][46][47]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ CNN
  3. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (2004-02-27). "Ex-Leader of Japan Cult Sentenced to Death in Gas Attack". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  4. ^ "Sect Leader Who Allegedly Sought Virgins Found Guilty on Sex Charge". AP (TAOS, N.M: Fox News). 15 December 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  5. ^ "New Mexico Apocalyptic Sect Leader Gets 10 Years in Sex Case". AP (Las Vegas, N.M: Fox News). 31 December 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "Paedophile politician released". New Zealand Herald. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  7. ^ "Matthew Hale gets maximum 40-year sentence". Southern Poverty Law Center. 2005-04-07. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  8. ^ "US polygamy sect leader sentenced". BBC News. 2007-11-20. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  9. ^ "JMS leader sentenced to 6 years". Korea Herald. 2008-08-13. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  10. ^ "Cult leader jailed for more sexual abuse". Melbourne: The Age. 2007-08-24. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  11. ^ "TIME". TIME. 1981-08-31. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  12. ^ Brockman, Norbert. Lenshina Mulenga Mubisha, Alice Dictionary of African Christian Biography. 1994. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  13. ^ "Ohio Executes Cult Leader for 5 Killings". CBS News. 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2007-12-20. [dead link]
  14. ^ Linder, Doug. The Charles Manson (Tate-LaBianca Murder) Trial. UMKC Law. 2002. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  15. ^ Livesey, Bruce. the salafist movement. Frontline. 2005. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  16. ^ Notable Names Database. Fred Phelps entry.
  17. ^ Southern Poverty Law Center. Timeline of the life of Fred Phelps, Sr.
  18. ^ "Guru gets lifers for 13 rapes". The Times of India. 2005-04-05. Retrieved 2007-12-20. [dead link]
  19. ^ Haley, Jim (December 4, 1979). "Businessman guilty of 2 morals charges". Everett Herald. p. 1A. 
  20. ^ "Chilean colony sex abuser jailed". BBC News. 2006-05-24. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  21. ^ Colin A. Ross (1995). Satanic Ritual Abuse: Principles of Treatment. University of Toronto Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-8020-7357-3. 
  22. ^ "BLACK SECT LEADER GETS 18-YEAR TERM". The New York Times. 1992-09-05. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  23. ^ "Sect leader sentenced to 135 years for molesting children". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 2004-04-22. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
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  30. ^ Indictment, United States of America v. Kent E. Hovind and Jo D. Hovind, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, case no. 3:06CR83/MCR (dated July 11, 2006; filed at 12:55 pm, July 11, 2006).
  31. ^ "Kent Hovind, ‘Dr. Dino,’ guilty on all counts". Pensacola News Journal. 2006-11-03. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  32. ^ Miller, Russell. Bare-faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard, p. 142. London: Joseph, 1987. ISBN 0-7181-2764-1
  33. ^ St. Petersburg Times. 1999-03-29 |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  34. ^ Boca Raton News. 1982-12-12 |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  35. ^ The Age. 1978-02-21,2428446&dq=l+ron+hubbard+convicted+france |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 2009-07-28. [dead link]
  36. ^ Davies, Lizzy (2009-05-25). "Church of Scientology goes on trial in France". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  37. ^ "Church of Scientology on trial in France". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2009-05-26. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  38. ^ Farnsworth, Clyde H. (1994-10-16). "Canada Seeks Money Trail Of Secret Cult". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  39. ^ "'Time to pay the piper' for preacher convicted of grand theft". CNN. 1999-03-31. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  40. ^ "Barry Minkow heads back to prison". The Los Angeles Times. 2011-09-20. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  41. ^ "Moon Conviction IsUpheldbyCourt". The New York Times. 1983-09-14. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  42. ^ Gordon, James S. (1987). The Golden Guru. Lexington, Massachusetts: The Stephen Greene Press. pp. 199–201. ISBN 0-8289-0630-0. 
  43. ^ Staff (2007). "Oregon History: Chronology - 1952 to 2002". Oregon Blue Book (Directory and Fact Book compiled by the Oregon State Archives). Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  44. ^ Staff. "Wasco County History". Oregon Historical County Records Guide (Oregon State Archives). Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  45. ^ "Acharya Rajneesh". Contemporary Authors Online (Thomson Gale). September 5, 2003. 
  46. ^ Staff (1990). "Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh". Newsmakers 1990 (Gale Research). pp. Issue 2. 
  47. ^ Staff (2007). "Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh". Almanac of Famous People, 9th ed. (Thomson Gale).