Two Aloha men arrested on sex-abuse charges
[Follow-up: Both men acquitted]
HILLSBORO — A 39-year-old Aloha man who promises spiritual awakening through meditation books and CDs he sells on the Internet is facing sex-abuse charges.
Pepin was arraigned Tuesday in Washington County criminal court on one count of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse, and four counts of third-degree sexual abuse. He was released after posting $26,750 cash, or 10 percent of $267,500 bail. A trial was set for Sept. 12.
Using a child in a sexual display is a Measure 11 crime punishable by a mandatory minimum of 5 years and 10 months in prison.
Jamison Dwight Priebe, 21, who works for Pepin and lives at the same address in the 19600 block of Southwest Cooperhawk Court in Aloha, also was arrested on one count each of using a child in a sexual display and third-degree sexual abuse.
Priebe and Pepin turned themselves in at the Washington County Jail last week after a grand jury handed down secret indictments. Priebe was released after posting $25,375 cash bail and is awaiting arraignment Monday.
Smith said a man who is now 20 was 17 and working for Pepin when he allegedly was sexually abused at the Higher Balance office in the 11900 block of Southwest Second Street in Beaverton and at Pepin’s former home in the city.
A call to the Higher Balance Institute on Wednesday was answered by a “Personal Star Reach Coach,” who referred questions to Pepin’s private attorney, Sam Kauffman.
“The charges are false, and we are confident Mr. Pepin will be exonerated,” Kauffman said.
Pepin’s Web site claims he has located more than 100 missing persons and runaways, along with U.S. Navy submarines, through a psychic ability he calls “remote viewing.”
Pepin’s meditation systems, which sell for $79 to $149, help customers develop their “sixth sense” and apply it “inward to awaken a dimensional universe within the mind,” the Web site says.
According to an affidavit Smith filed with a request for a search warrant, the alleged victim told police that Internet customers who rave about Pepin’s teachings are men and women usually older than 35. But, the man said Pepin told him he should recruit “good-looking men” between the ages of 18 and 24 to work for him.
The court record also says Pepin knew the man was 17 when he forced him to perform sex acts.
The boy, Smith wrote, “was taught by Pepin to believe that the sexual contact was only a spiritual necessity.” But after a while, the affidavit says, the boy decided he was being used by Pepin, who bought him meals and paid him $200 after sex.
The man contacted Beaverton police in January.
Smith said anyone who may have had underage sexual contact with Pepin should call him at 503-526-2280.
Smith said the man accusing Pepin told police he met one of Pepin’s followers at Beaverton Town Square in April 2004. He told Smith the recruiter invited him to meet Pepin and see him demonstrate levitation.
Pepin introduced himself dressed in a robe emblazoned with the words “Master Eric” and a triangular symbol and told the victim to take off his shirt, the detective said.
“It’s a cult,” Smith said, “anytime you have a guy who fancies himself as the master, the leader.”
July 20, 2006