INDIANA — A Jeffersonville pastor is in custody and facing multiple felonies after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor from his former congregation in Fort Wayne.
Anthony R. Gualtieri, 48, most recently lead pastor at First Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, was charged Monday in Allen County with three level 4 felonies for sexual misconduct with a minor, a level 5 felony for sexual misconduct with a minor and a level 5 felony for child seduction.
The charges are related to his former post as a youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, where he worked from 2012 to 2018, before becoming lead pastor at the Jeffersonville church. He is now being held in the Clark County jail.
The investigation began when on May 16 the victim reported to Fort Wayne Police that she had roughly 100 sexual encounters with Gualtieri from 2015 to 2020. She said it started when she was 14 or 15 years old and Gualtieri, who had been her youth pastor, told her he had “deep feelings for her,” according to court records.
Of the roughly 100 encounters, 20 are reported to have happened in Fort Wayne, at the church, the defendant’s home and hotels. Records show it continued even after Gualtieri was transferred to Jeffersonville, where the two would “meet at several different locations.” She said he told her not to tell anyone and threatened suicide if it was found out.
It is not clear if any of the remaining acts alleged happened in Clark County, and Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said when reached by phone Friday that he had not received information on this defendant from any police department.
During the investigation, Fort Wayne police spoke with Pastor Joseph Marden from Faith Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, who said that the victim had told him she was raped. He said she later told him she was in a relationship with Gualtieri.
Marden called the defendant, who admitted to a sexual relationship with the victim, but said it started when she was 17, not 14. A witness to that call heard the defendant say that the age of consent was 14 to 16. He at first threatened suicide if he was exposed, but then said he was going to turn himself in to police and that it was not about sex, but an emotional connection.
Faith Baptist Church in Fort Wayne has this statement posted on its website:
“On behalf of the Faith Baptist Church family, congregants, staff, and members, the leadership of Faith Baptist Church of Fort Wayne are praying for accountability, healing, and justice in light of the recent arrest of Anthony Gualtieri, who served as the Church’s youth pastor from 2012 to 2018,” it reads. “Faith Baptist Church takes the allegations against Mr. Gualtieri very seriously, and leadership will fully cooperate with law enforcement in connection with all investigations. Faith Baptist Church will continue its mission to gather, grow, and serve its community during this time; to provide an environment that fosters values of family, friendship, spiritual growth, compassion, and tradition; and to pray for all of those impacted by these circumstances.”
A request for comment Friday afternoon from First Baptist Church in Jeffersonville was not returned. The church website shows that prior to his assignment in Clark County, Gualtieri had served in full-time student ministry at Baptist churches in Indiana and Ohio.