Methodist Pastor Arrested in Underage Sex Sting

floridaA Methodist pastor was one of 22 men arrested earlier this month by Florida police in “Operation Undertow,” an Internet sting in which undercover agents lured suspected child predators via computer. Hoping to engage in sex with children, the men were arrested instead.

According to police, Pastor David Donald Hoppenjan, 52, But the 14-year-old was actually an adult undercover police officer Hoppenjan had met online.

Transcripts highlighted by Fox10 show the investigator telling the pastor: “So I know you know I’m young but I’m 14. Is that cool with you?” It was. Hoppenjan followed up with several obscene sexual chats, say police, and said “I’ll come and do whatever you want.”

After making arrangements to meet at a designated area, Hoppenjan showed up, only to be tackled by police officers and arrested.

Prior to his arrest, Hoppenjan had served as a Methodist senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Pace, Florida since last year.  He earlier served as a missionary in Guatemala. Hoppenjan spent nine years as executive pastor at Shalimar United Methodist Church in Florida and served as the youth pastor at Wetumpka First United Methodist Church in Alabama.

The Pace church’s website offered a short biographical sketch before it was taken down by church officials.  The biography noted, “I was involved in YMCA, Covenant Hospice, Children in Crisis, Habitat for Humanity, as well as local schools as a parent, a volunteer, and a church member helping out in any way possible.”

Hoppenjan’s engagement in high risk behavior may indicate that his arrest is not his first or only attempt at sex with minors. Law enforcement involved in the Pensacola sting operation recognize that online predators know the risks they are taking by attempting to lure children but do it anyway.

“You would think that these child predators would learn the risk they are taking, but they don’t,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told The Washington Post earlier this year, after announcing the results of another undercover operation. “They’re so fixated on these children, they simply throw caution to the wind, and then we go round up another group of them.”

Online predators pose a clear danger to our children and we applaud law enforcement efforts to stop them before they hurt minors. Parents need to be aware of this danger and proactively guard against it by monitoring a minor’s online activity.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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