A former Fort Worth couple who lived a discreet life has been indicted by federal authorities in California, accused of procuring children to be sexually abused by the leader of a religious sect who prescribed sex with minors as a rite of passage.
The sexual abuse spelled out in the indictment occurred between 1991 and 2001 when Michael La Brecque, 44, and his wife Juliette, 45, lived in Fort Worth, federal prosecutors in Sacramento, Calif., said.
The indictment, returned Aug. 28, alleges that Michael La Brecque transported and aided in the transportation of two minor children from Texas to California between 1999 and 2001 with the intent that they engage in unlawful sexual acts. One of the victims was a then 14-year-old girl, said Special Agent Karen Ernst, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Sacramento.
The indictment also charges that the couple transported a minor from California to Texas between 1991 and 2001 to engage in sexual acts.
The ritualistic sexual abuse of children is a tenet of the religion of self-styled Mormon sect leader Allen Harrod, 56, of Folsom, Calif., according to a federal criminal complaint, which led to the arrests of the La Brecques in Fort Madison, Iowa, their most recent place of residence.
Harrod promotes sex with children as an educational rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, an affidavit filed with the complaint said.
Michael La Brecque was a bishop in Harrod’s sect. He met Harrod when both served at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento County, Calif.
Fort Worth police investigated the La Brecques a few years ago, but yielded to federal and state authorities in California because the vast majority of the alleged crimes occurred in California, an investigator said.
But Sgt. Dave Stamp of the Fort Worth Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit, still remembers that the children living with the couple appeared “brain-washed.”
“The kids were like programmed robots,” Stamp said. “They were grooming the girls to be good servants to the leader.”
Stamp recalled that the children referred to Allen Harrod as “Santa Claus” because of his long white hair and full beard. The couple’s neighbors in the 2100 block of Washington Avenue did not know anything about them, Stamp said.
Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, confirmed that investigators from her agency interviewed several children living with the La Brecques and removed one child from the family.
“We closed our investigation due to the fact the alleged perpetrator in a related sexual abuse case in California was in jail awaiting trial,” Meisner said. “The older La Brecque children are living with their maternal grandparents and maternal aunt in California.”
According to the affidavit, Michael La Brecque transported two children from Texas to California from 1999 to 2001 with the expectation that they have sex with Harrod.
In 1991, Harrod’s wife, Irene, allegedly transported one of her own children, a 7-year-old, from California to Texas to engage in sexual acts with Juliette La Brecque for the purpose of producing child pornography, the affidavit said.
The Harrods now face related federal charges in Sacramento. The La Brecques have waived their extradition to California and are expected to be transported from Iowa to Sacramento by federal marshals soon, said Patty Pontello, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.
The case against Allen Harrod unraveled in 2001 when his eldest daughter, now an adult, told Folsom, Calif., police that her father began molesting her almost daily when she was in preschool in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Folsom police investigators searching his home found 19th century Mormon writings embracing polygamy and journals from girls and adult women in his household that mentioned sexual offerings made to “Isaac,” the biblical name Harrod had given himself, the Bee reported.
In addition to the recent federal charges, Allen Harrod also faces 27 state charges of child molestation in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel White in Sacramento said she had never prosecuted a case like this.
“It’s a fairly unique case, it’s a pretty horrendous conduct alleged here,” White said. “I don’t know of any of other cases here involving the underlying religion (the defendants) professed to believe in.”
Jan Karowsky, a court-appointed attorney for Juliette La Brecque in Sacramento, said he has yet to meet his client and declined to comment on the criminal charges against the couple.