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Police seek Catholic priest in hidden camera case

Priest allegedly had receipt for camera found in Sherwood church toilet, police say.


(CORRECTION: This corrects an earlier version of this story by replacing an incorrect fact printed online and in the Sherwood Gazette. The sentence should have read: "The priest had allegedly lied to parishioners about the camera, saying that he had never seen the camera before." The Gazette regrets the error.)

Sherwood police attempted to arrest the former pastor of St. Francis Catholic Church this week on misdemeanor charges related to the discovery of a hidden camera in a church bathroom, but police say they are unable to find him.

The Rev. Ysrael Bien, 34, is charged with personal invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and initiating a false police report.

According to Ty Hanlon, a Sherwood Police spokesman, officers tried to contact Bien at his home in Sherwood, but were told by a priest who was living with him that he left the country on June 30. He has not been seen since.

The attempted arrest comes after a search warrant revealed Bien had a receipt involving the online purchase of a wall socket camera that was discovered by a 15-year-old boy in a church bathroom.

Bien, who is originally from The Philippines, came to St. Francis Catholic Church last year.

The priest had allegedly lied to parishioners about the camera, saying that he had never seen the camera before. He told the boys’ parents that he would turn the camera over to police.

But police say that never happened. Instead, police say he lied to the family and concocted elaborate stories about a police investigation that did not exist.

The boy discovered the camera in a single-toilet men’s restroom at the church, located at 15651 S.W. Oregon St., on April 26. The camera was shaped like an electrical outlet.

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

Bien said that he would turn the device over to police and told the boys’ parents that he had filed a police report. He 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.

After he was pressed by the parents, Bien allegedly admitted that he had not informed the church’s staff or the police about the camera, instead saying that it had been stolen from a desk drawer the day the boy had discovered it.

The boys’ father, Bien and a deacon at the church agreed to alert the authorities and the Archdiocese of Portland to what happened, which they did on May 20.

Bien was placed on leave in June.

On Tuesday the Archdiocese issued a statement saying that Bien's charges were troubling for a community that has been reeling with sex abuse scandals over the last several years.

"It is gravely troubling to find out that one of our priests has been charged with criminal misconduct, but we appreciate the diligence of the Sherwood Police Department in pursuing its investigation of the incident," said Archbishop Alexander Sample. "We will continue to cooperate with authorities in the resolution of this matter. Our prayers are with parishioners of Saint Francis Church, Sherwood, and all who have been affected.“

Officials at the Archdiocese said that Bien had traveled to The Philippines to visit family. When officials found out about they trip they asked him to return, but said that they have no indication that he has done so.

Sherwood police want to talk to anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of having their personal privacy violated while in attendance at St. Francis Church by contacting Detective Debbie Smith at 503-925 7117.

Police also want to know if anyone may know of Bien’s whereabouts. Hanlon said questions about whether any type of extradition would occur if Bien was found in another country would have to come from the Washington County District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Portland released this letter on Aug. 20 to parisioners at St. Francis.

By Geoff Pursinger
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