An Edmonton man who falsely claimed to be a member of the Catholic clergy faces sexual assault and child pornography charges in the alleged exploitation of two teenage boys.
Justin Georges Stephen Coulombe, 33, was arrested on July 27, according to a release Tuesday from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
The investigation by ALERT's child exploitation unit began after the mother of one boy came forward in June with information about sexually graphic messages that had been exchanged online for several months.
According to investigators, the relationship between Coulombe and the boy eventually became physical, while the alleged offences against the second boy were solely in the "online realm."
Both boys were under the age of 16.
"This case is troubling," Det. Brian Cross, an Edmonton police member with the child exploitation unit.
During a news conference at Edmonton's ALERT headquarters on Tuesday, Cross said the second victim was being "sexually extorted" with graphic images.
"It leads me to believe that a young man was groomed," he said. "There was an escalation of the actual sexual offences that were committed."
Investigators said they do not believe that Coulombe used his false title as a priest to lure the victims in this case, but said they were concerned he may have used his false identity to victimize other children.
"Whether it's online or in person, it's always troubling when we see cases of adults taking advantage of young people for a sexual purpose," Cross said.
"The victims in the case will require a lot of support going forward, for many years to come, in order to cope emotionally with what's been done to them."
A search warrant was issued for a residence in Edmonton's north end and multiple electronic devices, which contained pornographic images, were seized, ALERT said.
Investigators said Coulombe moved to Edmonton from Langley, B.C., at the beginning of 2017. He purports to be a member of the Catholic clergy, but has no affiliation with the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton or any other diocese in North America, Cross said.
Coulombe has an extensive online presence and his profiles were being publicly monitored by Creep-Catcher-style forums across Canada. Law officials are aware of the citzen-led investigations but could not corroborate any of their claims about Coulombe's activity online, Cross said.
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Investigators believe there may be more victims in the case. The electronic devices seized will be forensically examined for evidence of additional victims.
Anyone with information is asked to contact their local police department or Crime Stoppers.
"The forensics are just beginning," said Cross. "We have a lot of work left to do on this investigation."
Coulombe has been charged with:
- Luring to commit the making of child pornography.
- Luring to commit an offence against a child.
- Sexual interference.
- Invitation to sexual touching.
- Sexual assault.
- Possession of child pornography.
Cross said the mother of one of the boys "did everything right" by contacting law enforcement as soon as the disturbing messages between her son and his alleged abuser came to light.
The case should serve as a reminder to parents that they must be vigilant in protecting their children from online predators, Cross said.
"She immediately, when the hairs on the back of her neck went up, she took steps to find out why," he said. "As she found more and more suspicious information, the reports were made to police.
"And once that information crossed beyond being suspicious to something that would be a criminal complaint … police were already involved."