A Catholic man who claims to be a priest has been arrested and is now facing charges for sexual assault, child pornography, extortion, and more.
Authorities began looking into 33-year-old Justin Georges Stephen Coulombe after one mother found evidence that he had sent disturbing, sexually explicit messages to her son. Coulombe “purports to be and identifies himself in public” as a priest but has “no affiliation” with the Catholic Church in Canada or the U.S., according to Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
The investigation began after the mother of one of the alleged victims came forward to police with information about sexually graphic messages that had been exchanged online for several months. [The Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit] alleges that the relationship with this boy then became sexual, while the offences against the second teenage boy were solely committed online. A preliminary forensic analysis of the devices seized during the arrest identified child pornography images.
Police say there more be other victims involved.
Coulombe has been identified as a “fake” priest, so I wanted to learn more about him. It turns out he frequently posts about being a “priest” on Facebook. He even joked about becoming a member of Trump’s administration.
There is no proof he is actually a priest, but there is proof he has been intimately involved with the Catholic Church for quite some time. He was a member of Edmonton’s St. Joachim Parish, as well as a youth counselor for the Columbian Squire circle.
A staff writer for Camp Oselia, a ministry of the Ukranian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, interviewed Coulombe about his priestly ambitions in 2004.
Justin-Georges Coulombe has felt a call to the priesthood since age seven. Now, at age 20, he feels it’s time to respond.
To help discern his calling, Coulombe attended a vocations workshop at Camp Oselia Sept. 17-18.
He went to the workshop feeling torn between being a father and being a priest.
It gets weird when Coulombe describes that dilemma:
“I feel that I’m called to do both and I am not sure how I’m going to do both. I feel that I am meant to have children because I work very well with them and I feel that I am meant to work with children; so it’s a dilemma… Being in contact with other brothers and religious people who (already) made the decision has helped me further discern the fact that the priesthood is the direction I want to go because (as a priest) I can help more than I can just being a father… I want to work with the Spiritans because they work with youth of all ages. If I finish my bachelor’s and the Spiritans will take me.“
What makes all this worse is that citizen groups have reportedly been warning authorities about Coulombe alleged criminal activity for some time prior to the launch of the official probe.
Months before his arrest, Creep Catcher-style organizations across Canada were publicly monitoring Coulombe, and had vilified him as an online predator and a high-profile member of pro-pedophilia internet forums.
Despite the warnings, the police say they didn’t have enough to act until the victim’s mother reached out. According to Det. Brian Cross with ALERT’s internet child exploitation unit:
“We found that information out at the early stages of the investigation. It’s not a deep, dark web secret about our suspect… Just like anything else, there are a lot of people on the internet that make outrageous claims about people that they simply don’t like… It’s good for intelligence, but without a viable complaint or witness or corroborating evidence, it’s not normally something we would normally be able to action… Unless there is something to corroborate that, or a witness associated to it, there’s not necessarily an investigation going to be initiated by it.”
There are other citizen reports about Coulombe online, but the information hasn’t been verified. It was, however, accrued prior to any police investigation, so it’s worth reviewing. At a bare minimum, people have had their eyes on Coulombe for years. If he’s finally been arrested, the question may be how many crimes police will investigate.
(Image via CBC)