NEW INFORMATION: Fmr. youth pastor among suspects in child sex trafficking, exploitation case

NEW INFORMATION: Fmr. youth pastor among suspects in child sex trafficking, exploitation case

By Mike Lopez and Jenny You

October 20, 2014

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Nine arrests have been made in connection to child sex crimes in the Chippewa Valley, and investigators say one of the suspects is a former youth pastor at an Eau Claire church.

The nine men were arrested Thursday and Friday through an undercover string called 'Operation Child Safe'. It was a two-day sting conducted by 30 officers, deputies and agents from the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department, Eau Claire Police Department, Altoona Police Department and the state Division of Criminal Investigation.

Deputy Chief Matt Rokus with the Eau Claire Police Department said the Computer Forensics Lab at the police department was kept busy. Undercover officers posed on the other side of the internet. The suspects responded to advertisements for underage children either looking for sex or as an adult who was looking to traffic a child for sex.

Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said the ads got more than 5,000 clicks which lead to conversations, face-to-face meetings at public spots like gas stations and ultimately brought in nine arrests.

Investigators say John Fyksen, Andrew Hayhoe, Anthony Steen, Juan Lugues Rios, Justin Hanson, Donald Anderson, Lucas Nelson, and Chad Shiffer are expected to be charged next week with use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, attempted child enticement, and attempted second degree sexual assault of a child. Douglas Regal was arrested for drug possession while on the scene.

The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department says Shiffer, 44, was a youth pastor at Bethesda Lutheran Brethren Church in Eau Claire. Bethesda Lutheran Bretheren's pastor tells WEAU 13 News that Shiffer resigned for an unrelated reason more than a year ago. He went on to say the church is just finding out the news, and that it's shocking. He also said they are praying for family involved.

"That absolutely is a real concern for us and as we check into that," said Cramer. "They're supposed to be the people that protect our kids from things and that's a deliberate violation of trust for the church and other entities that allow these people around children."

The Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation asks parents to monitor their kids' internet use, mobile devices and know who they're talking with.

Special Agent in Charge Robert Powell said parents need to be aware there are child sex predators who are trolling the internet.

"The Attorney General's office has developed statewide Internet Crimes Against Children task force," said Powell. "It's made up of about 250 local affiliates throughout the state, and we work daily with those affiliates and apprehending people who prey on our children."

Last year, five people were arrested in the area during a similar sting operation.

"The five previous ones that were arrested pleaded guilty a year ago and there were some concerns on some people that they'd been in and around other children and I think it was an eye opener for people and this year will be the same thing," said Cramer. "They'll know some of these people as their neighbor, relative, they'll be shocked when they see this."

Investigators say it's a sad thing to see that the people parents trust the most with their children could violate that trust.

"An operation like this protects against people, the predator being in the area, it's not 100 percent, but at least we're telling people beware, we are out here monitoring, and I think that's the importance of our message here," said Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer.

Cramer said with Halloween just around the corner, parents should take the time to check public records to see if sex offenders live around their neighborhood.

According to a news release from the Eau Claire Police Department:

"Child exploitation is a serious issue that requires a coordinated response. The Eau Claire Police Department, Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office, and Altoona Police Department are fully committed to protecting the safety of our children. Our agencies will continue to proactively seek out individuals who threaten to victimize this vulnerable segment of our community. The Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigations is an important partner in this ongoing effort.

The Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory lead agency is the Eau Claire Police Department with the Altoona Police Department and the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office as partners. Because of this partnership our agencies are able to bring together our resources in order to keep up with the technology that is used to facilitate criminal activity and ensure a safer community. Our law enforcement agencies are appreciative for the continued support from the respective City Councils and County Board for the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory."

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Nine arrests have been made for child sex crimes in the Chippewa Valley, and investigators say one of the suspects is a former youth pastor at an Eau Claire church.

The nine men were arrested Thursday and Friday through undercover operations. It was a two-day sting conducted by the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department, Eau Claire Police Department, Altoona Police Department and the state Division of Criminal Investigation. The suspects responded to advertisements for underage children either looking for sex or as an adult who was looking to traffic a child for sex.

Investigators say John Fyksen, Andrew Hayhoe, Anthony Steen, Juan Lugues Rios, Justin Hanson, Donald Anderson, Lucas Nelson, and Chad Shiffer are expected to be charged next week with use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, attempted child enticement, and attempted second degree sexual assault of a child. Douglas Regal was arrested for drug possession while on the scene.

The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department says Shiffer, 44, was a youth pastor at Bethesda Lutheran Brethren Church in Eau Claire. Bethesda Lutheran Bretheren's pastor tells WEAU 13 News that Shiffer resigned for an unrelated reason more than a year ago. He went on to say the church is just finding out the news, and that it's shocking. He also said they are praying for family members who knew Shiffer.

Investigators say it's a sad thing to see that the people parents trust the most with their children could violate that trust.

"An operation like this protects against people, the predator being in the area, it's not 100 percent, but at least we're telling people beware, we are out here monitoring, and I think that's the importance of our message here," said Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer.

Stay with WEAU 13 News and WEAU.com for continuing coverage of this story. Watch for updates tonight on WEAU 13 News at 5 and 6. 
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Police have arrested nine people following an undercover operation targeting sex trafficking and exploitation of children.

The arrests were made by members of the Eau Claire Police Department, Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office, Altoona Police Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.

Officers arrested nine suspects over the course of two days, Thursday October 16 and Friday October 17, in conjunction with the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory. 
Police say each person arrested was taken into custody after responding to an advertisement for underage children either looking for sex or as an adult who was intending to traffic a child for sex.

WEAU 13 News will continue following this developing story all day. For more on the investigation and the nine suspects under arrest, check back on WEAU.com and tonight on WEAU 13 News at 5 and 6.

To read more, click here. 

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