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Past Sex Crime Catches Up to Pastor

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Canoga Park: Paul Ilger is ousted from his church after his arrest for failing to register as an offender. He had served time for molesting students.

March 26, 2002|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An associate pastor who served four years in prison for child molestation has been ousted from his Canoga Park church, nearly nine months after his arrest for failing to register as a sex offender.

Paul Henry Ilger, a former second-grade teacher, was convicted in 1988 of molesting four students in his San Luis Obispo classroom.

Ilger, now 50, has been removed from his position with Hope Chapel of the Valley, the church announced Monday. A church member said Ilger was fired last week.

"Upon discovery that Mr. Ilger violated the residency reporting conditions of his probation, [the church] obtained Rev. Ilger's resignation from ministry. Mr. Ilger has been completely cooperative and submissive to these ecclesiastical requirements," according to a statement issued by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a Christian Pentecostal denomination.

The church also has taken unspecified internal steps "to ensure that such a situation does not reoccur in the future."

After prison, Ilger moved his wife and two daughters to the San Fernando Valley and joined Hope Chapel of the Valley, where he rose through the ranks to became a trusted pastor.

Last June, Ilger was arrested after police learned he had failed to register after changing addresses twice in the past decade.

As a sex offender, Ilger is required under state law to notify local authorities each time he moves.

He lived briefly in North Hollywood and then moved to Van Nuys. In July 2000, he bought a house in West Hills.

Ilger pleaded guilty last month and, because it was a third-strike conviction, could face a maximum of 25 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in Van Nuys today. Prosecutors are seeking his imprisonment for at least 32 months.

Although church officials knew of Ilger's molestation conviction when they hired him, most members of the congregation didn't find out until recently.

Robert Deyan, 43, of Van Nuys said Ilger told him he had been convicted "for being a tree-hugger" and that his crimes involved work as an environmental activist.

After becoming suspicious, Deyan drove to San Luis Obispo to review Ilger's court file.

"I feel totally betrayed," Deyan said. "I feel lied to by my church."

Pastor Jeff Fischer acknowledged in a recent letter to the court that the congregation, in retrospect, would have been better served by the leadership's full disclosure about Ilger's history.

Fischer said he and about 30 church elders knew that Ilger had molested young girls before he was hired, and, as a precaution, they restricted his church duties.

Ilger was not supposed to be alone with children under 16 or work with the children's ministry, Fischer wrote.

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