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Priest lied about investigation, police claim

Court documents allege Ysrael Bien lied about police investigation after hidden camera found in men's bathroom

ST. FRANCIS - A priest at St. Francis Catholic Church is under investigation after he failed to report a hidden camera found in a church bathroom. The camera was later reported stolen.A Sherwood priest allegedly lied to parishioners about a police investigation after a 15-year-old boy found a hidden camera inside a church bathroom.

That’s according to recently released court documents, which allege that the Rev. Ysrael Bien, 34, waited nearly a month before he reported the hidden camera to authorities.

In the meantime, the documents claim, Bien lied to the family about having contacted authorities and concocted elaborate stories about a police investigation that turned out to be false.

Bien, of St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood, was placed on administrative leave last month, according to the Archdiocese of Portland.

No charges have been filed in the case, but a search warrant affidavit filed in Washington County Circuit Court reveals new information about the investigation.

According to the affidavit, a 15-year-old boy was in a single-toilet men’s restroom at the church, located at 15651 S.W. Oregon St., on April 26 when he discovered an oddly-placed electrical outlet on the wall.

The outlet was at waist height facing the toilet. Removing the device from the wall, the boy discovered a hidden camera inside, police said.

The boy showed the device to Bien who told the boy and his father that he would report the incident to police.

The boys’ parents spoke with the priest several times over the next month. According to the search warrant, Bien told them that he had filed a police report — something Sherwood Police say didn’t happen.

“Father Bien lied about making a police report to Sherwood PD and relayed an elaborate story to (the boy’s parents) about the police investigation that in actuality had never taken place,” Sherwood Police wrote in the search warrant, which was filed May 27.

Fake investigation

Born and raised in the Philippines, Bien came to St. Francis last year.

Before St. Francis, Bien had ministered at Resurrection Catholic Church in Tualatin, where he served as a weekend deacon, as well as at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Beaverton, where he served as a parochial vicar for two years.

After the camera’s discovery, the boy’s mother asked Bien if police wished to speak to her son and collect his fingerprints as part of the investigation. He told her “No,” and said that investigators already had a suspect in mind who had used similar devices in other locations. He said that he was working with the Archdiocese of Portland about increasing security measures at the church and installing new security cameras.

He told the mother that he would update them when someone was arrested.

Weeks went by with no word, so the boy’s father went to the church for an update on May 10, the warrant claims.

Bien reportedly told him that there was nothing to report. When pressed, the warrant claims, Bien admitted that he had not informed the church’s staff about the camera, including a deacon at the church in charge of training parents and volunteers about protecting children from abuse within Catholic ministries.

The father was surprised, but Bien said he would inform the staff at its May 13 meeting.

On May 14, Bien sent the boys’ parents a private message on Facebook with an update to the “investigation,” the warrant claims.

He said that police did not have enough evidence from the device to make an arrest. Only two sets of fingerprints were found, he said. Those prints belonged to Bien and, through process of deduction, police believed the other prints belonged to the boy.

According to a letter the boy’s father wrote to police with their version of events, the parents didn’t buy it.

“(The boy’s mother) and I were not satisfied with the update, and the information that Father was offering did not seem to make sense,” the boy’s father wrote.

DA to decide

The boy’s father requested that the church supply him with a copy of the police report, at which time Bien finally came clean about lying, the warrant claims.

Bien said that the camera had been stolen from a desk drawer the day that the boy found it. Bien said he had placed the device in a desk drawer in the vesting room — a private room where the priest and altar boys prepare for Mass, that adjoined the bathroom. Bien said that he attended a few meetings after the service, and when he went to retrieve it that afternoon, the camera had been stolen.

According to the warrant, Bien did not report the theft because of fear.

“Father Bien said he was afraid of the consequences of losing the device, so he lied about the investigation and did not report it,” the warrant read.

The boys’ father, the deacon and Bien agreed that it was time to alert both the authorities and the Archdiocese to what happened, which they did on May 20.

Bien told police he had no idea who might have stolen the device, and said that it did not appear to have a memory card in it at the time it was discovered. He told police that his attorney had advised him not to speak with detectives further.

On May 27, police searched the church, Bien’s home and car, and several phones and computers.

The Archdiocese of Portland placed Bien on leave on June 24, more than a month after it received information about the incident.

The case has been sent to the Washington County District Attorney’s office, which will decide if charges will be filed.

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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