An Iowa minister has been charged with attempting to purchase sex after being busted in a prostitution sting, police said.
Rev. Jonathan L. Offt, 41, of Cedar Rapids, was one of nine men charged with one count of prostitution Friday. The men were taken into custody after they responded to a phony Internet ad and arranged to meet an undercover female police officer for sex, Marion Assistant Police Chief Shellene Gray told The Huffington Post.
Offt, a married father of three, has served as the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church since 2003. The church has a school and house of worship in Cedar Rapids.
Pat Ehler, business director of the church, said there is a general sense of sadness among the parishioners about what has happened.
"Trinity Lutheran Church and School is saddened by the most recent news story regarding Jonathan Offt," Ehler said in an email to The Huffington Post. "The proper authorities are handling the situation. The church and school request your prayers for all involved. We have no further comments at this time."
Attempts to reach Offt were unsuccessful.
"Officers placed sexual advertisements on various websites on the Internet. Potential targets responded by telephone as well as text message and email," Marion Police Chief Harry Daugherty said.
"Arrangements were made to meet in person," Daugherty added. "Suspects were arrested after offering money in exchange for a sex act with an undercover officer."
Daugherty said officers in tactical gear performed the arrests during an 8-hour period on Friday.
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In addition to Offt, who was the first to be taken into custody, police arrested: Daniel Gingerich, 37, of Marengo; Ronald Coleman, 40, of Robins; Joseph Burke, 57, of Cedar Rapids; Michael Romanowski, 67, of Iowa City; Steven Van Nevel, 53, of Brooklyn; Gregory Stroyls, 40, of Marion; Donald Wedewer, 53, of Earlville; and Keith Myers, 50, of Cedar Rapids.
All of the arrestees were booked at the Marion Police Department on the misdemeanor prostitution charge and released upon their promise to appear in court.
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