The Hudson pastor jailed in the Philippines on charges related to human trafficking is free.
The Rev. Joe Coffey, lead pastor at Christ Community Chapel, broke the news Monday morning via Twitter.
“Aftr 22 days tom Randall is free.all charges dropped! Praise God! Still prying for all truth to come out and 4 welfare of the children,” Coffey tweeted [@JoeCoffeyTalk] at 6:03 a.m. Monday.
Randall, of Stow, was arrested Jan. 12 [Jan. 13 in the Philippines, where there is a 13-hour time difference] during a raid by the Anti-Human Trafficking Division of the National Bureau of Investigation at the Sankey Samaritan Missions Inc. Orphanage in Lucena City. The orphanage was founded in 1998 by Randall and his wife, Karen. The couple moved to Northeast Ohio from Oklahoma last summer and Randall joined the staff at the Hudson church in November.
The raid at the orphanage reportedly came amid allegations that the facility had been operating as a front for human trafficking and that children living there had been sexually abused for years. Arrested along with Randall were Perfecto “Toto” Luchavez, who had served as Sankey administrator since 2005, and his son Mark Jayrold “Jake” Luchavez.
According to Filipino news reports, Randall was charged with obstruction of justice for negligence in handling allegations of abuse and sex trafficking. The Luchavezes were reportedly charged with violating Filipino anti-human trafficking laws. The younger Luchavez was also charged with rape.
At the time of the arrests, 31 orphans were rescued and released to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The Christian Post reported that seven or eight orphans [both boys and girls] younger than 18 years old gave sworn statements that they had been routinely raped since 2005 and that Randall failed to take action after being told of the abuse. The orphans avoided going to police for fear of having to find a new home, according to the report.
The status of the charges against the Luchavezes could not be confirmed. But a post on the Free Tom Randall Facebook page indicated that they are still in custody.
“Now that he is free, Tom’s next prayer and concern is for the kids from the orphanage who were taken. Many of the boys have been found. However, they don’t know where the girls are. He [and others] are working to find them all, and to make sure they are safe, secure, and cared for. Also, still waiting for word on Toto and Jake. Hopefully they will be cleared soon,” the post stated.
Missionary hears of abuse
Joseph Mauk, a missionary in the Philippines for more than 30 years, reported alleged abuse at the orphanage to Randall and a pastoral council in November. Mauk said he was compelled to come forward after receiving letters from two female residents at Sankey who said that they had been abused.
Mauk, whose wife was a founding board member of Sankey and who has done missionary work with Randall, welcomed the news of Randall’s release.
“I am very glad to hear of Tom’s release, this means that none of the many sworn statements of the rescued children/young adults implicated him in any way with physically abusing them. This is what we all have been hoping and praying for,” said Mauk, in email correspondence. “I have been disappointed in the stubborn refusal to accept that long-term systematic abuse and oppression was taking place at his institution. Of course, four months ago, I wouldn’t have believed it either. But when the plain statements of the young people themselves are overwhelming, it is time to change our thinking.”
Pastor denies allegations
In Randall’s affidavit, filed with the Filipino court, he “vehemently” denied the allegations against him and protested his “illegal arrest.” The affidavit was obtained by the Akron Beacon Journal.
“I have not trafficked the children of Sankey nor did I ignore their complaints,” Randall stated in the affidavit, which also claimed authorities had no probable cause to arrest him without a warrant and that he was entitled to be released immediately based on a lack of evidence.
Randall explained in the affidavit that even though he founded Sankey to “help orphans and give them a better chance at life,” he does not own, lease or sublease any of Sankey’s property or facilities nor is he an incorporator, director or officer of the orphanage.
The local pastor, who is former chaplain for the PGA Champions Tour, stated that he is based in the United States and spends about one month annually, during December and January, in the Philippines.
“However, I remained in constant touch with Sankey as an adviser, and always helped out in securing funds for the operations of Sankey. I would always make myself available should Sankey need my guidance. In fact, since the formation of Sankey, I would ensure that I come to the Philippines during the months of December or January to spend Christmas and New Year with the children and to assist in managing its affairs,” Randall stated.
Articles of incorporation attached to Randall’s affidavit indicate that the orphanage is run by a board of trustees. Documentation of the orphanage’s pending renewal of its license through the Department of Social Welfare and Development indicates Sankey provides “residential care services for orphaned, abandoned, neglected and surrender children.”
The orphanage is part of the Randalls’ mission organization, called World Harvest Ministries. Randall is listed as the director of the ministry, which was established in 1990.
Coffey released a statement Monday evening saying Randall plans to return to Northeast Ohio later this week.
“We’re encouraged and relieved that the investigation into this accusation returned no evidence of wrongdoing on Tom’s part,” said Coffey. “We remain concerned for the orphans without a home to return to in Lucena City and will do all we can to care for them.”