Crime

Former Tri-City pastor pleads guilty 1 year after being nabbed in child sex sting

John M. Scheline, 41, admitted in Benton County Superior Court that he tried to have sex with a teen boy after posting an online ad. The former pastor and youth mentor was one of 26 arrested in last July's "Net Nanny Operation" targeting online child predators.
John M. Scheline, 41, admitted in Benton County Superior Court that he tried to have sex with a teen boy after posting an online ad. The former pastor and youth mentor was one of 26 arrested in last July's "Net Nanny Operation" targeting online child predators. File

A former pastor and youth mentor could spend at least five years in prison for admitting he tried to have sex with a teen boy after posting an online ad.

John M. Scheline, 41, pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to attempted second-degree rape of a child.

The plea comes just a week shy of the one-year anniversary of Scheline and 25 other men being swept up in the Tri-Cities "Net Nanny Operation."

The five-day sting targeted online predators who used various websites in an effort to have sex with children.

Undercover officers either answered advertisements that already existed online or posted new ones claiming to either be kids as young as 11 or parents who were offering their children for sex.

The operation was led by the Washington State Patrol's Missing and Exploited Children Task Force, with 45 local, state and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors participating.

Scheline was booked into the Benton County jail on Wednesday afternoon after entering his plea. The sex crime conviction calls for immediate incarceration without bail.

He had been out on $10,000 bail.

The Richland father had been executive director of Ignite Youth Mentoring until he resigned in March 2017. He was fired from a volunteer mentor role with the organization after the allegations surfaced last summer.

He previously served as a pastor at Faith Assembly in Pasco and lead pastor of Bozeman Christian Center in Montana.

Investigators found an advertisement Scheline had placed June 13, 2017, on Craigslist suggesting that a married dad was looking for a young boy, according to court documents.

A detective responded July 5 as a father offering up his 13-year-old son for sex acts. Scheline then discussed in explicit detail what he would do with the boy, documents said.

Scheline went to the designated apartment, but turned and left when "the (undercover) son" answered the door, documents said. He was arrested as he tried to get out of the complex.

In his plea statement, Scheline said he "took a substantial step toward having sexual intercourse" with someone between ages 12 and 14.

Sentencing is scheduled for August if a presentencing report is completed before then.

Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell said in the plea statement that he will recommend a mandatory minimum of four years and 11 months, but Scheline is free to argue for less time in prison.

The attempted rape carries a mandatory maximum life term, which means it will be up to a state review board to ultimately determine when Scheline is ready to be released.

Scheline is among a handful of defendants who have either pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury in the last four months.

Yuriy L. Gulchuk got 2 1/2 year in prison for going to the apartment complex to meet a 13-year-old girl, but driving away because he had "bad feelings."

William J. Barrett will be locked up for at least seven years for showing up at the apartment with methamphetamine, a glass smoking device, condoms and sex toys in his attempt to rape two young girls.

Thomas A. Swarers had a smile on his face when he walked into the apartment to have sex with two young girls. He got at least nine years in prison.

Douglas V. Arbogast faces sentencing in late July for trying to have sex with a boy and a girl after exchanging messages with their "mother."

And Marco A. Celis-Hernandez will serve a minimum of five years and nine months for agreeing to pay $75 for sex acts with an 11-year-old girl while the mother watched.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531
  Comments