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NJ Youth Pastor Indicted for Online Explicit Exploitation of Minor

By kbm0423 on
Burlington County

Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw announced that a Palmyra man has been indicted on charges of coaxing underage boys on social media to send him explicit pictures and videos, then using that material to blackmail his victims into performing explicit acts on themselves for his enjoyment.

A grand jury indicted Sean Higgins, 31, on 75 total counts that included charges of Endangering the Welfare of a Minor, Aggravated Explicit Assault, Criminal Explicit Contact, Cyber Harassment, and Obscenity to a Minor. 

According to Prosecutor Bradshaw, Higgins is accused of committing these crimes in 2020 while serving as the youth pastor and music leader at Harbor Baptist Church in Hainesport and serving as a teacher at the Harbor Baptist Academy, a private K-12 school that is housed in the same facility.

The indictment includes 13 victims, aged 12 to 17, who resided in Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee. 

The crimes for which he was indicted did not include physical contact with the victims and did not involve any members of the church congregation or students at the school.

He has been lodged in the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly since being taken into custody at his residence in October 2020. 

With the assistance of the New Jersey State Police, search warrants were executed at that time on his home as well as the church, and multiple electronic devices were seized.

The investigation revealed that Higgins would adopt the persona of a teenage girl and utilize Snapchat and Instagram to begin a conversation with a juvenile male, introducing himself as Julie Miller. 

After establishing a rapport, he would suggest that they trade photos. Higgins would then send pictures of an unidentified female teenager.

The investigation found that, in return, Higgins would often receive explicit photos that the victims took of themselves. Immediately upon receiving those images, he would take a screenshot of the victim’s friends list that was visible on the forward-facing social media platform. 

Higgins would send that screenshot back to the victim and threaten to send the nude photos he had just received to the list of the victim’s friends unless the victim did exactly what Higgins demanded.

According to Prosecutor Bradshaw, in most of the cases that were investigated, Higgins then demanded that his victims go into the bathroom at their residence and place the phone on the floor or at an angle looking up, and would instruct the victims to perform explicit acts on themselves. Higgins would record what was transpiring.

According to the videos made by Higgins that were obtained during the investigation, victims would often beg Higgins to be allowed to stop engaging in explicit conduct, but Higgins would demand that they complete his instructions or face the consequences of having the recordings he was making of the incident be sent to their list of friends.

The investigation began after a youth in Berks County, Pa., contacted Snapchat and reported that he sent explicit photos of himself to someone he believed to be an unknown female. 

The unknown female, who in actuality was Higgins, had threatened to expose his explicit photographs after they exchanged pictures. 

According to Prosecutor Bradshaw, an underage male in Alabama also reported his communications with Higgins to law enforcement authorities.

Anyone who believes their child has had inappropriate interaction on Snapchat or Instagram with someone going by the user name of Julie Miller, Julia Miller, or some variation of that name is asked to call Burlington County Central Communications at 609-265-7113 or send an email to tips@co.burlington.nj.us.