Posted at: 04/04/2013 9:51 PM
Updated at: 04/05/2013 10:17 AM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4
For years, he was a children's pastor and trusted by hundreds. Now, Derek Schwartzrock, 34, is facing federal charges accused of having loads of child pornography.
Schwartzrock was fired Thursday from the Evangel Christian Center, where he was a children's pastor for the past four years until New Mexico State Police and Homeland Security Investigations revealed Schwartzrock may have been into child pornography.
"We found over 12,000 images of child exploitations and child erotica," Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, said.
According to the criminal complaint, Schwartzrock first lied to Homeland Security Investigators about his job as a children's pastor, then later admitted that, along with his preference for "elementary aged children."
Schwartzrock explained, according to the criminal complaint, he had been downloading and masturbating to images of young boys, anywhere from 6 to 12 years old - for years.
"Anytime that it's a person of trust, we always have a concern," Abar said. "We do take that seriously because they may have more access to individuals and to children."
"I am confident that we did everything we knew to do to make sure that that wasn't happening here," Brenton Franks, senior pastor at the Evangel Christian Center, said.
Employee background checks are mandatory and were part of the procedure when Schwartzrock was hired in 2009, Franks said.
"When you check and check and check again, and there aren't red flags, you kinda get to the point where you have to stop and say, I don't know what else, I don't know," Franks said.
On Schwartzrock's public facebook page, there are hundreds of photos he posted of children, but there are no visible signs of anything inappropriate.
"Our big concern is the kids safety," Franks said. "It always is the kids safety, and we're not interested ever in compromising their safety. That just disappoints me, down on the inside, that makes me really sad."
Homeland Security Investigations did not comment when asked if any of the children at the church could have been victimized.
Anyone who has information related to this case - or any case involving the possession, distribution or manufacture of child porn - is asked to call Homeland Security at 855-542-0952.