PEORIA (WEEK) - Steven P Tibbetts, a former Lutheran Pastor in the Peoria area, has admitted to trading child pornography online since the 1990's.
A federal investigation has allegedly connected Tibbetts to at least 3,600 images and more than 120 videos, many depicting sexually explicit acts involving minors.
The investigation began in August of 2019 when the social media site Tumbler provided a tip about one of its users to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Twitter also shared a similar tip.
The FBI said that several IP addresses associated with those accounts were traced to Peoria.
In September the complaint was forwarded to the Peoria Police Department who executed a state search warrant for the accounts with the username "youarenaughty".
That is when court documents indicate police uncovered the thousands of images and videos, which they turned over to the FBI.
The FBI was able to allegedly trace the accounts to Tibbetts.
Tibbetts home in Godfrey, where he was now the head pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church, was searched two weeks ago. That is where the FBI said they found several thousand more photos and videos on his computer, CD's, and other hard-drives.
In an interview Tibbetts admitted to owning the accounts and to the decades of trading the pornographic images and video.
He also admitted to sexual interest in underage males.
Tibbetts had his initial court appearance on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis. After holding a preliminary hearing, United States Magistrate Judge Mark Beatty found probable cause to support the complaint and ordered Tibbetts to be placed on electronic monitoring and released on a $10,000 unsecured bond pending trial. A trial date has not been set.
Distributing child pornography over the internet is a federal crime that as a first offense carries a maximum punishment of 5-20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a lifetime term of supervised release.
Tibbetts was a pastor in Peoria at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church from 1992 until it closed in 2019.