A 47-year-old Caro man was arrested Sunday after a YouTube video began circulating a day earlier in which the man appears to be attempting to pick up a 14-year-old boy.
Jeffery Lloyd Bader was arraigned at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Tuscola County District Court on two felony charges – accosting a minor for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime with a maximum sentence of between four and 10 years in prison.
On Saturday, a YouTube user under the name Thizz Gang posted a video to the media platform which appears to incriminate Bader. About five minutes into the 13-minute-long video, the person recording the video gets into a car with a man police say is Bader. The man who recorded the video claims to have had been in contact with Bader via online messaging. The man was communicating under the guise of being a 14-year-old boy.
In the video, taken at the Bay City YMCA, 225 S. Washington, the man authorities say is Bader tells the man recording the video that he was there to meet a 14-year-old boy.
Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene said his office has been in contact with the man who recorded the video, and that the man is not involved in law enforcement.
This is the second time in the last 18 months that a local person has been arrested due to citizens looking to find and expose potential child predators.
In September 2018, Justin L. Fountain was arrested after the citizen-based group “989 Child Predators” notified police that the 41-year-old Mayville man was attempting to meet up with a 15-year-girl. The “girl” was actually an adult member of the group.
Citizens attempting to expose criminals can be dangerous, Reene said.
“It’s complicated,” Reene said. “We certainly understand citizens wanting to take some action and do something that helps stop this kind of activity from occurring. But there’s certainly risk for those who are engaged in the behavior of confronting others, you never have any idea who you’re coming across or once confronted, what their potential level of desperation is or what they may do.”
In May, Fountain was sentenced to 23 months to seven years in prison after pleading no contest to five counts each of accosting a child for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime with a maximum penalty of between four and 10 years in prison.
The difference between the two cases is that “989 Child Predators” contacted police before meeting with the suspect.
“In the (Fountain case), obviously we had advanced coordination and were able to proceed and acquire (evidence),” Reene said. “When law enforcement is involved in advance, we can gather and obtain any evidence without risk of it being deleted.”
During his arraignment, Bader told court officials he was unemployed. In the initial stages of its investigation, the prosecutor’s office acknowledged that it was discovered that Bader previously worked locally as a pastor.
An official with Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center of Caro said that Bader years ago worked at the facility in various capacities.
The Lighthouse released the following statement after Bader’s arrest: “The Lighthouse is deeply saddened by the video that was on YouTube. We are shocked at what has occurred. Jeff Bader is not an employee of the Lighthouse. And he has not worked here in many, many years. Jeff Bader has no relationship with the Lighthouse,”
Bader was arrested by the Caro Police Dept., which is handling the case in conjunction with the Bay City Police Dept.
At the Tuesday arraignment, Reene asked Magistrate Joseph Van Auken for a stiff bond of no less than $50,000. But Van Auken granted Bader a cash bond of $2,000.
Reene said he thought a higher bond would be appropriate due to the risk Bader poses to minor children.
Van Auken attached several conditions to the bond, should Bader post it. Van Auken ordered Bader to not enter a business or nonprofit where internet is available to the public, that he not use any device that is internet-capable and that he have no contact with or be near children under 18.
Bader is scheduled for a probable cause hearing at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 12 and a preliminary exam at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 19.
Accosting a child for immoral purposes carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison while the using a computer to commit a crime count has a maximum penalty of seven years.
John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at email@example.com.