A licensed Albuquerque minister who worked with children was behind bars Thursday after federal investigators found more than 12,000 images of child pornography on his computer and other electronic equipment.
Derek Schwartzrock, 34, was arrested Wednesday by New Mexico State Police and federal Homeland Security agents. He is facing federal possession of child pornography charges.
A criminal complaint alleged that Schwartzrock had accessed a website containing sexually explicit images of children. Agents found images that were consistent with child pornography on his computer and other devices after serving a search warrant at his home.
Schwartzrock's first court appearance was set for Friday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
Schwartzrock was the children's minister at Evangel Christian Center in Albuquerque.
Schwartzrock was fired Thursday after church officials learned of the allegations.
Pastor Brenton Franks, the senior pastor at Evangel Christian, said three different background checks had been done during Schwartzrock's employment over the last four years and there were never any red flags.
All employees undergo mandatory background checks, he said.
Franks said the center takes the safety of the children seriously and that the center is cooperating with local law enforcement agents.
"We are deeply saddened by the situation," he said. "Obviously, this is a tragic circumstance for Derek, his family and for Evangel Christian Center."
Federal prosecutors said the investigation started in mid-March after Homeland Security investigators in Philadelphia determined that someone in Albuquerque was accessing a website that contained explicit images of children.
They determined Schwartzrock was the owner of the IP address that was allegedly used to download images.