Strongsville priest indicted on federal charges, including sex trafficking

By Stephanie Warsmith - Akron Beacon Journal (TNS)

A Strongsville priest who is an Akron native has been indicted by a federal grand jury on several charges, including sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.

Robert D. McWilliams, 29, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Cleveland on two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children, and one count each of transportation of child pornography, receipt and distribution of visual depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and possession of child pornography.

“Today’s indictment reflects the serious and elaborate nature of the acts allegedly taken by the defendant to traffic and exploit local area children,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said in a press release. “The alleged acts committed in this case are a disturbing and strong reminder for parents to be vigilant about who their children talk to and what they do online.”

From 2017 to 2019, McWilliams is accused of engaging in sexually explicit conduct and behavior involving minors. Federal prosecutors say McWilliams pretended to be a female on social media and made contact with minor male victims, some he knew because he served as a priest at parishes they attended.

McWilliams allegedly enticed the males to send sexually explicit photographs and videos, sometimes threatening to expose embarrassing information or to send images to family members if they did not send the images. He also is accused of sending some mothers sexually explicit photographs he received from their children, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors say McWilliams also was in possession of, received or distributed approximately 1,700 images and videos of child pornography and approximately 150 files of child pornography in a Dropbox account.

McWilliams is alleged to have used the website to contact a minor male victim and then, on multiple occasions, paying the male for sex acts.

Anyone with information about McWilliams’ contact with children is asked to call Homeland Security Investigations at 216-749-9602.

The Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office and Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (“ICAC”) Task Force investigated.

McWilliams also has faced charges, including numerous counts of child pornography, in state courts.

Prosecutors said in February that they expected additional charges to be brought against McWilliams from multiple jurisdictions.

McWilliams, a Roman Catholic priest at St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville, was arrested in December 2019 as part of an investigation by local authorities and the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He pleaded not guilty in January to 21 child pornography charges in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Church officials said in December 2019 that McWilliams, who was ordained in May 2017 and whose native parish is Immaculate Conception in Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood, had been placed on administrative leave. McWilliams is a 1998 graduate of Kenmore High School.

By Stephanie Warsmith

Akron Beacon Journal (TNS)

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