Former Mormon bishop accused of luring teenage boy for sex

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by Christina O'Haver & Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 27 at 12:39 PM

MESA, Ariz. -- A former bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is accused of trying to lure a teen boy for sexual exploitation, according to the Mesa Police Department.

Michael Wayne Coleman, 53, was arrested Jan. 16 following an investigation by Mesa police.

The investigation into Coleman began Nov. 2, after representatives with Educatius International, a foreign exchange student business, contacted police about an allegation from a 16-year-old male student. The student had filed a complaint about a Facebook conversation in which Coleman allegedly made comments about getting a hug and kiss from the student.

Mesa police spokesman Detective Steve Berry said the company immediately suspended Coleman, a foreign exchange coordinator, and seized his company-issued laptop computer and cellphone.

Educatius International said Coleman was fired after an internal review showed evidence of additional inappropriate communication. The laptop and cellphone were turned over to detectives.

Berry said police obtained a search warrant for the computer and detectives discovered conversations Coleman was allegedly having with a 17-year-old boy in Brazil.

Investigators say Coleman suggested leaving his wife and daughter and moving to Brazil, or having the teen move into his Mesa home. He also reportedly called the teen his boyfriend.

Coleman was taken into custody based on the information gathered from his computer, Berry said.

Coleman reportedly acknowledged the conversations but did not admit to sexual content. Coleman declined to speak further and requested an attorney, Berry said.

At Coleman's first court hearing, his attorney, Garrett Smith, said the allegations cannot be proven.

"The victim is not participating in this," he told the court. "This is all from Internet conversations they've taken from his computer. I'm not sure how they are going to show he was making these conversations, but that's a challenge for the case later."

A judge ordered that Coleman have no contact with minors and refrain from using computers.

Berry said Coleman was the bishop of the Lehi Second Ward in Mesa at the time of the investigation but is no longer with the Mormon church. It is unclear when he left his position and whether it was related to the allegations.

Berry said the investigation is ongoing and there could be other victims.

Statement from Educatius International:

On January 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.

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