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FLORIDA: Pastor arrested for hugs scam

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Bishop Chuck Leigh was arrested for allegations of falsifying community  service and probation records for women in exchange for what police call,  “groping hugs”“A Tampa clergyman was arrested for allegations of falsifying community  service and probation records for women in exchange for what police call,  “groping hugs”.

I-Team investigator Michael George first broke the story and has exclusive  video of the arrest and the undercover operation that led up to it.

After receiving a tip in June that Bishop Chuck Leigh, 64, was falsifying  court probation paperwork for defendants ordered to perform community service  hours, Tampa Police organized an undercover operation inside the small,  Apostolic Catholic Church on N. Nebraska.

Police told the I-Team that people ordered to probation came to Bishop Leigh  for community service work.  But instead of performing community service,  Bishop Leigh signed off on court paperwork in exchange for hugs from women.

The I-Team had exclusive access to a Tampa police briefing on Wednesday as  Tampa Police prepped for their undercover mission and sent an officer inside the  church. The plan was to send in a female undercover officer who had been posing  as someone who needed to fulfill community service. She would be wearing a  hidden camera while officers outside watched and listened in.

The officer entered the church on Wednesday afternoon. I-Team investigator  Michael George was permitted to observe the operation from outside, and saw  Bishop Leigh ask the female undercover officer for several hugs that lasted  several seconds each. Immediately after the hugs, Leigh filled out paperwork  showing she had completed 50 hours of community service.

The undercover officer gave a signal for her fellow officers to move in. When  the found the door to the small church was locked, they used a ram to break the  door in and arrested the clergyman.

As he was being led to a squad car, Bishop Leigh told Michael George, “I’m  totally surprised. I don’t know what the problem is.”

On June 19, an undercover Tampa Police officer also posed as a defendant  serving probation on grand theft charge. Leigh falsified the officer’s probation  documents giving her credit for 17 community service hours in exchange for 4  hugs.

Leigh has been arrested and charged with six counts of falsifying official  documents.

Tampa Police are looking into whether additional charges are warranted,  including fraud and abuse of power.

The future of the small, Apostolic Catholic Church (which is not affiliated  with the Roman Catholic Church), is unclear. Church member Pete Stapleton was  stunned to hear about the allegation, and said the Bishop is known as a man of  God who is always willing to help the less fortunate. Investigator Michael  George asked Stapleton how important Bishop Leigh is to the church.

“He is the church, when it boils down to it,” Stapleton said.

The I-Team has discovered that Leigh has a prior arrest history.

In 1976, Tampa Police arrested Leigh on a charge of strong arm sexual  battery.  Investigators said he allegedly picked up a woman in his car,  then sexually assaulted her inside a home.  The charge was later  dropped.

 

In 1978, Leigh was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for  armed robbery.  Those charges were also eventually dropped.”

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