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A pastor in New Hampshire was charged with multiple counts of possession of child porn. At the end of a 5-year investigation, Stephen Bates, 46, was arrested on March 15 by Nashua police. The investigation on Bates was launched in 2016 after the Nashua Police Department received a total of 14 tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

According to Fox News, the center alleged that a user from the Bible Baptist Church registered an upload of Child Sexual Abuse Material from an IP address that was traced back to the church. From there, detectives had since kept a close watch on Bates leading them to question him in October 2017. Investigators headed over to the church to speak directly to its pastor who was asked if he knew of any potential suspects who may have uploaded the CSAM, Bates allegedly told investigators that he had no idea who this could be and that the church’s doors were usually left unlocked.

Since then, Bates became a person of interest during the early part of the probe. Up until March 15 of this year, there was no sufficient evidence indicating Bates was involved and authorities had no evidence at hand to charge him of such crimes.

However, in January of 2019, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Hampshire said they had received a referral from HSI Colorado who at the time, had an ongoing investigation involving an online child sexual exploitation. A press release from the police department stated that online accounts on Instagram and The Onion Router pointed them towards the Bible Baptist Church’s main office.

Nashua Police kept receiving tips that kept leading to the same church bringing police to authorize a federal search warrant of the church office. Authorities turned over every single piece of electronic device, including the pastor’s phone, however, authorities failed to locate anything significant. But in 2021, a detective went undercover and struck a conversation with a user who was registered with an account name similar to the ones police had previously received from their tipsters. One particular conversation which included the sexual exploitation of children was brought up by the said user.

In February this year, authorities were able to link accounts involved in the possession, distribution, and manufacturing of CSAM to Bates. After serving the pastor with a search warrant, Bates handed over two flash drives from his back pocket which contained various child sex abuse images that involved children as young as 13. He was arrested and slapped with five counts of felony charges for possession of child sexual abuse images.

The church said they are working on ways to evict Bates from the church property on Caldwell Road where he lives. However, with his current bail condition, they may have to wait until his bail conditions are amended so they can have him removed.

Bates was previously held on a $3,000 cash bail with which he has since posted bail and is currently enjoying freedom. His arraignment is scheduled for April 7.

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