Posted: 6:05 pm EDT June 25, 2010Updated: 6:33 pm EDT June 25, 2010
COCOA, Fla. -- A Cocoa youth pastor was supposed to be a role model, but he's been arrested for sexting a teenager instead. WFTV learned Friday that there's more to Jermel Manns than that one sex crime.
Manns is a convicted sex offender from Illinois who never registered locally, and he got a youth pastor job from his uncle.
If you look up Jermel Manns in the Illinois sex registry database, he comes up with a Jacksonville, Illinois address, and the Illinois sex offender registry lists him as compliant.
But for the past two years he was actually living in Brevard County under the name Jermel Beckford, or as his youth group at church called him, Pastor J.
Jermel Manns is no stranger to the criminal justice system. The 36-year-old was convicted of molesting a teenage boy in Illinois nearly a decade ago.
In 2008 he moved to Florida, took up a job as youth pastor at the Celebration Tabernacle Church in Cocoa and assumed the name Jermel Beckford.
Dressed in a suicide prevention gown, he appeared in Brevard County’s jail to answer to a new sex charge.
The senior pastor at the church, and Jermel's uncle, Errol Beckford, said he knew nothing of his past and was stunned to hear of his arrest.
“I says, what? Are you kidding me? He was a good pastor. He had 75 kids here. He built it up and they loved him," Beckford said.
Rockledge police say he developed a close relationship with a 16-year-old boy and started sending sexually explicit text messages. One message asked the teen to perform a sexual act.
A friend of the victim saw it and word got to police.
"At this point we do not know if there are any more victims, but we're pleading to the community if you think you've been victimized please come forward we need that information," said Cpl. Alice DiBiase-Deakins, Rockledge Police Department.
Errol Beckford said the church did not run a nationwide background check, but he says they will for Manns’ replacement.
"Whoever that person is we learn from this incident, doesn't matter who it is. It could be the Pope, we're going to run a national and pay for it," Beckford said.
Manns is being held on one count of soliciting a sexual act with a minor, but authorities say he could face more charges for failing to register as a sex offender in Florida and for not notifying authorities in Illinois.
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