A former bishop with the LDS Church was arrested by Mesa police last week on suspicion of luring a 16-year-old boy for sex, officers said.
The Jan. 16 arrest of Michael Wayne Coleman, 53, stemmed from an investigation that began on Nov. 2.
A representative from Educatius International, a foreign exchange student business, notified police about a complaint the student had filed. The boy alleged Coleman made comments during a Facebook chat about getting a hug and kiss from him, police said.
The company immediately suspended Coleman. The company computer and cell phone he had were turned over to detectives.
Authorities obtained a search warrant and detectives began to examine the information.
Authorities said they discovered conversations on the computer where Coleman was allegedly having elicit sexual conversations on the internet with a separate 17-year-old boy.
Police said the conversations between the 17-year-old and Coleman began on Jan. 6, 2013 and continued through the end of the month. In one of the exchanges, Coleman allegedly wrote he had figured out a way to delete conversations. When the student asked why, Coleman allegedly responded, "because of the obvious - I may say something I shouldn't because I know I can delete it let me just say this I will delete this but I do love you," based on the Skype records.
Based on the evidence found on the computer, Coleman was taken into custody.
Bond was set at $5,000 for Coleman, who was also ordered to wear an ankle tracking bracelet. He was also prohibited from talking with minors or using the internet.
Police said Coleman acknowledged the conversations, but did not admit to the sexual content. He declined to speak any further, officers said.
Detectives said their investigation continues with the potential for additional victims.
Coleman at the time of the investigation was the Bishop of the Lehi 2nd Ward and the regional manager of Educatius International.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement Friday on Coleman's arrest:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. Any person who engages in abuse is rightfully subject to both legal prosecution and formal church discipline. When the Church became aware of these charges, Coleman was released as a bishop to allow him to attend to legal proceedings. We are supportive of the efforts of authorities to ensure this situation is addressed appropriately."
Educatius International issued this statement in the wake of Coleman's arrest:
"On Jan. 16, 2014, Michael Coleman - a former Regional Manager of Educatius, Inc. in Mesa, AZ - was arrested and charged with luring a minor for sexual exploitation. Coleman's arrest followed an investigation by the Mesa Police Department that commenced in November 2013, after Educatius informed the MPD that an Educatius-sponsored minor student had complained to Educatius leadership about inappropriate social media messages sent by Coleman.
"Within hours of receiving that student's complaint, Educatius removed all students from Coleman's supervision, placed Coleman on administrative leave, and seized his company-issued laptop and mobile phone for forensic analysis. When our internal review showed evidence of additional inappropriate communication, we immediately terminated Coleman's employment and notified Mesa police. Educatius cooperated fully with the police investigation, providing Coleman's computer and cell phone to MPD and maintaining confidentiality about this matter in order not to jeopardize the progress of the MPD investigation.
"While our leadership team does not know the full scope of what police investigators uncovered in the course of their investigation, we're saddened to learn that the MPD apparently found sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Coleman. We will continue to cooperate with the police in every way possible, and cooperate with prosecutors in any subsequent criminal prosecution against Coleman.
"Educatius conducts thorough background checks of every single applicant, whether or not the person has student contact. We had no reason to be concerned about Coleman prior to the student's complaint. Educatius stands vigilant at all times to ensure the safety of all sponsored students."
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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