Catholic Priest from Strongsville Indicted on Federal Charges of Child Pornography, Exploitation
By John Caniglia
July 2, 2020
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Catholic priest was indicted Thursday on federal charges involving child pornography and the exploitation of children.
A grand jury charged the Rev. Robert McWilliams, 40, with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children and three counts of pornography-related charges involving children.
McWilliams had served at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Pearl Road in Strongsville at the time of his arrest Dec. 5. He is being held without bond.
In a statement, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said it is “grateful to those in law enforcement who have worked diligently to investigate this matter. As the criminal case against McWilliams proceeds, let us continue to pray for justice to be served and healing for those who have been harmed by sexual abuse.”
The case unfolded when Geauga County authorities looked into allegations by children who said someone had used extortion to get them to send nude photographs online, court records show.
Authorities later linked the messages to McWilliams, and they found that he was the person seeking the photos, as he had worked at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Newbury Township.
In December, the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force raided McWilliams’ living space at the Strongsville church’s rectory. It seized electronic devices and discovered evidence that he had child pornography, according to court records.
Investigators found that McWilliams met a teen on the app Grindr. The priest identified himself as “Mike” and offered payment in exchange for sex, according to court records.
The teenager said he performed sex acts with McWilliams three times and was paid $200, with one of the encounters taking place at a hotel in Medina, the records show.
The child was 15 at the time.
Robert Dixon, who has been appointed to represent McWilliams, said he had not seen the indictment Thursday.