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Press Release

Norfolk Church Youth Group Leader Convicted of Sexual Abuse

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – A federal judge convicted a Norfolk man today on charges of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Charles Willoughby III, 39, served as a youth group leader at New Life Worship Center (NLWC) in Norfolk. From 2006 to 2012, Willoughby routinely groomed minor teenage girls who were part of the church’s youth program in order to attempt to sexually abuse them. On June 26, 2012, Jane Doe, who was then 15 years old, and other youth group members boarded a chartered bus from NLWC to travel to Georgia for a national church youth group conference. Willoughby served as one of the chaperones. While on the bus there, Willoughby forced Jane Doe to engage in a sexual act. Jane Doe did not disclose the abuse until 2018, and other victims were identified after that disclosure. 

Willoughby faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison when sentenced on April 19, 2023. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Derek W. Gordon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.; and Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Elizabeth W. Hanes pronounced the verdict.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Yusi and Megan Montoya are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

In 2021, EDVA launched “UnMasked,” a community-based educational outreach and prevention program in Virginia dedicated to raising awareness and educating the community about the prevalence of online sexual exploitation involving children and young adults. UnMasked is a multi-disciplinary partnership of local, state, federal, and non-profit stakeholders. The core curriculum is provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) NetSmartz program. To report an incident involving online sexual exploitation, call 1-800-843-5678 or submit a report at To request an UnMasked event at your school or organization, please contact EDVA’s Community Outreach Coordinator at

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:21-cr-96.

Updated December 12, 2022

Project Safe Childhood