The director of youth ministry at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in North Myrtle Beach was arrested on Nov. 8 and charged with a handful of sex crimes involving minors, according to booking records and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston.
Jacob Ouellette, 24, was arrested by Mount Pleasant police in a multi-jurisdiction sting operation conducted with the help of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Ouellette is not an ordained priest.
Ouellette is charged with second degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor between 11 and 14 years-old, first degree sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of criminal solicitation of a minor, according to court records.
"I regret to have to inform you that Jacob Ouellette, director of youth ministry at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church and former employee at Holy Trinity Catholic School, has been arrested in connection with a multi-jurisdictional investigation targeting sexual exploitation of minors via the internet," Father Ray Leonard told parishioners in a post on the church's website.
The Diocese of Charleston said in a news release that Ouellette had worked at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church since August 2019.
He volunteered as a substitute teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School from 2016 to 2018 and was hired as a teacher at the school in October 2018, the diocese said. He served as an advisor to the school's robotics club.
The church and school are both located at at 1100 8th Avenue North, North Myrtle Beach.
Ouellette also volunteered at St. Andrew Catholic School in Myrtle Beach for several months in 2019, the diocese said.
In his post on the church's website, Leonard said Ouellette was placed on administrative leave shortly after his arrest, which means he can’t be on school or parish property, nor can he participate in school or parish events.
Diocese spokesperson Maria Aselage said the church learned of Ouellette's arrest on Nov. 9, and he was placed on administrative leave the next day. Aselage said the church was in the process of terminating him.
Ouellette passed a criminal history screening, signed the diocesan-required code-of-conduct, signed an acknowledgement of the diocese’s policy concerning allegations of sexual misconduct and completed sex abuse prevention training before he was allowed to work with children, the diocese added.
Mount Pleasant police did not immediately respond to requests for comment and records. The attorney general’s office said it could provide more information on Monday.
The Diocese of Charleston said it did not assist the attorney general’s office or Mount Pleasant police in the investigation, and is not aware of any other employees who have been charged with sex crimes involving minors this year.
The diocese said anyone with information about sexual abuse against minors by church personnel should report the abuse to local police, and it asked the community to pray for those who have suffered any abuse.
Louisa Storen, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Charleston, is available for a counseling referral and guidance and can be reached at (800) 921-8122, the release said.
Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church and Holy Trinity Catholic School did not immediately respond to requests for comment. St. Andrew Catholic School referred questions to the diocese.
Ouellette’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Check back for updates.