FALLBROOK, Calif. (KGTV) - An employee at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Parish in Fallbrook has been suspended after allegations of sexually inappropriate dating app chats were revealed in a video released by a vigilante group that conducts stings to catch suspected predators.
10News is not revealing the name of the employee because he has not been charged with a crime.
A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego confirmed the employee's suspension, telling 10News the church pastor called the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to report the employee after seeing the video posted on social media Saturday morning.
The video was captured Nov. 21 by a group calling itself the "CC Unit" -- "CC" stands for "Creep Catching." The group has posted more than 60 videos over the past year, including one that led to the court martial of a Camp Pendleton Marine.
In an interview with 10News, the group's leader, who asked to be identified as "Ghost," said they create profiles on dating sites. When someone reaches out, the CC Unit decoy claims to be a minor.
In this particular case, Ghost claimed to be 14. Ghost said the conversation turned sexual, with the employee asking for nude pictures and eventually a meet-up. When he arrived for the meeting at a grocery store, instead of a 14-year-old boy, he was confronted by several men who were recording on their phones. The video stretches for several minutes as the employee tries to evade the CC Unit.
"He was denying we had his pictures, we had his chat logs," Ghost said. "I was like 'OK, if you're so afraid, if you don't know what's going on, why don't you call the police because that's what any normal human being would do?'"
Ghost admits that law enforcement does not approve of his actions. Criminal defense attorney Guadalupe Valencia told 10News that vigilante groups make the job of law enforcement harder and can jeopardize criminal investigations and prosecutions.
"They can cause this person to maybe go free of prosecution because they mishandled the situation. That's a really big danger," said Valencia.
Valencia said the CC Unit members could be opening up themselves to criminal charges or civil liability.
Despite the criticism, Ghost said he stands by his actions.
"They say it makes it harder for them, but I haven't seen them do as much work as I have done over the past year. I think the slaps on the wrist they (sexual predators) get right now is nothing compared to the embarrassment they go through when I expose them," said Ghost.