ST. LOUIS – Brave young women got justice Wednesday as a judge found a former pastor and owner of a south St. Louis martial arts studio and pizzeria guilty of sex crimes.
Judge Audrey Fleissig said Loren Copp used five young women, who were minors at the time, for sex and child pornography.
“These are very brave victims. They always are in these types of cases. They’re tough cases but they went in there and testified and the judge believed them and that’s the most important thing," said US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen.
Copp, 49, was accused of producing and possessing child pornography and using interstate facilities to coerce a minor to engage in sexual acts -- nine counts in all. He was convicted on all counts except the use of interstate facilities charge.
“Their testimony was pivotal," Jensen said. "Of course, it’s supported by all of the other evidence but their testimony was extremely important and we’re grateful for them and their bravery.”
Dojo Pizza was a combination restaurant and martial arts studio, located in the Bevo neighborhood, that operated as a non-profit to support free karate classes.
According to investigators, Copp groomed two girls at his business and then sexually abused them multiple times per week. Copp also took pictures of his victims while he raped them. This had been going on since 2009.
Police responded to Dojo Pizza on Morganford Avenue in the fall of 2015 in response to calls Copp was contributing to the delinquency of a minor and endangering the welfare of a child. At the time, Copp told Fox 2 police said his building was not up to code and he had an unlocked handgun which endangered his children's lives.
Dojo Pizza was raided the following month after a third young girl came forward to accuse Copp. Police found child pornography on Copp's computers during the raid.
“People need to understand that the FBI, the St. Louis (Metropolitan) Police Department, and ICE, and our office will pursue them aggressively as long as it takes," Jensen said. "It doesn’t matter how long it takes.”
Copp represented himself in the 10-day bench trial, which ended in April. Copp had been in jail since then awaiting the judge's decision.
The judge spoke for nearly an hour Wednesday about Copp’s sex crimes, saying he set up a fake Facebook profile, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl in order to trick other girls into taking sexual pictures and to have sex with “daddy.” The judge said Copp also sent fake emails to a child pretending to be a school enforcement officer to get what he wanted.
Copp faces between 15 years and life in prison when he's sentenced April 5, 2019.