A federal grand jury has announced an eight-count indictment against an Ohio priest that includes charges of sex trafficking of a minor, sexual exploitation of children, transportation of child pornography, and more.
U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said on Thursday that the indictment shows the "serious and elaborate" methods utilized by 40-year-old Robert D. McWilliams in exploiting children.
"The alleged acts committed in this case are a disturbing and strong reminder for parents to be vigilant about who their children talk to and what they do online," Herdman said.
Court documents show that McWilliams, from 2017 to 2019, was engaged in sexually explicit conduct and behavior with minors that included pretending to be a woman on social media as an effort to "make contact with minor male victims." Some of the victims, according to the DOJ, were young boys McWilliams already knew due to his work as a priest in local parishes.
McWilliams—who was found to be in possession of, received, or distributed an estimated 1,700 images and footage of child pornography—would allegedly get minors to send him sexually explicit content by way of threats, some of which he carried out against parents.
The priest's full list of charges includes two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of transportation of child pornography, one count of receipt and distribution of visual depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and one count of possession of child pornography.
According to a report from CNN, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland had placed McWilliams on administrative leave in December 2019 following his initial arrest on possession of child pornography accusations. Responding to the indictment announced on Thursday, a diocese rep said they were "grateful" for those who worked on the investigation.