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Associate pastor arrested on child sexual battery charges | News

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Associate pastor arrested on child sexual battery charges
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POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- Polk County sheriff's deputies have arrested an associate pastor accused of sexually battering a 14-year-old child.

Arnold Maurice Mathis, 40, is a registered sex offender and told detectives he's the current assistant pastor of Higher Praise Ministries in Lake Wales. In 2005, he was the senior pastor for Saint City Power and Raise Ministries in Winter Haven.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says, "We had a victim who is now about 21 years of age call the sheriff's office and say, 'You know, when I was about 14 or 15 I was sexually battered numerous times by an individual who, at the time, was a minister in a Winter Haven church.'"

The victim is currently 21 years old and he contacted deputies on Friday, telling them of the sexual battery incidents that he says took place over a period of two months approximately six years ago.

According to the PCSO, Mathis first met the victim at a local basketball game and offered to "help" the victim financially. Sheriff Judd says, "He approached this young man at a concession stand at a basketball game." 

He also offered to buy the victim new shoes. The victim, who had no father figure in his life at the time, believed Mathis was trying to mentor him.

The sheriff's office says Mathis arranged to meet the victim at a local park and later took him to his residence, where he performed oral sex on the then 14-year-old boy. Afterwards, Mathis gave the victim a $100 bill and told him to buy a pre-paid phone so they could contact each other again.

Over the course of two months, Mathis allegedly continued to engage the victim in sexual activity, providing gifts and money afterwards.

Sheriff Judd says while Mathis is currently the assistant pastor and youth minister at Higher Praise Ministries, that's not where they tracked him down. He says, "Do you know where we first located Arnold Mathis, the assistant pastor? In a casino."

Mathis is charged with five counts of Sexual Battery by a Person of Authority on a Child Over 12 Under 18. He was arrested by PCSO in August 2004 and January 2011 for failing to register as a sex offender.

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