Local priest federally charged with child porn, child exploitation and juvenile sex trafficking

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) -- A Strongsville priest who was taken into custody last year for child pornography is now facing federal charges.

According to the Department of Justice, Robert McWilliams, 39, has been charged with receiving or distributing child pornography, sexual exploitation of children and sex trafficking of a minor.

The affidavit states that McWillliams pretended to be a girl on social media, which he then used to make contact with underage boys. He reportedly targeted victims at the parish where he worked.

"Posing as the female, McWilliams allegedly enticed the minor male victims to send sexually explicit photographs and videos, sometimes threatening to expose embarrassing information McWilliams already knew about the victims if they did not send such images," the affidavit alleges.

The affidavit states he also followed through on this threat by sending some of the photographs he received from the victims to their mothers.

Investigators said he was in possession of and received or distributed approximately 1,700 images and videos of child pornography and had 150 files in a Dropbox account.

"Additionally, McWilliams is alleged to have used the social networking website Grindr.com to make contact with a minor male victim for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. McWilliams allegedly met the victim on multiple occasions and, in exchange for sex, paid the 15 year old boy approximately $100 per act," according to the affidavit.

Anyone with information on McWilliams or his contact with children should call Homeland Security Investigations at 216-749-9602.

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The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland issued the following statement:

"The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was made aware this afternoon of a federal indictment and new details of alleged crimes committed by Father Robert McWilliams, former parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville. We are incredibly shocked and profoundly saddened by these new allegations. As law enforcement agencies continue their important work in this matter we ask that our community joins together to pray that justice may be served and that healing may begin in this most challenging time. 

Father McWilliams remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of this matter, and St. Joseph Parish, SS. Joseph & John School, St. Helen Parish and the Diocese of Cleveland continue to stand ready to cooperate fully with law enforcement in its investigation of this matter."                

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