Youngstown, Ohio: A former youth pastor at the Victory Christian Center Boardman Campus was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday morning in Mahoning County by Judge R. Scott Krichbaum.
On December 20, 2021 Mark R. Cuprik II pleaded guilty to seven charges against him which included sexual battery, two counts of pandering obscenities involving a minor, one count of importuning, two counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles and one count of misdemeanor sexual imposition.
Despite the guilty plea, Cuprick, 23, has been free on bond since his November arraignment.
According to a statement from the church, allegations of abuse first came to light in January 2020. At that time Cuprik was removed from his position.
"Any abuse, especially that of a minor is abhorrent and should never be tolerated. We are incredibly grieved in regards to the allegations and indictments of a former youth leader at our Boardman campus. Our Board of Directors are aware of the matter and cooperating with the appropriate authorities. The accused leader was removed immediately from any and all involvement within the church when the allegations first surfaced under previous leadership of VCC in January of 2020."
"The defendant groomed these girls," Assistant Prosecutor Caitlyn Andrews said at the sentencing hearing. "He told them he loved them. He took advantage of the trust they had in him."
After reportedly beginning by sending images to a 14-year-old girl while he was 18, Cuprik reportedly told the girl that he would not promote her to leadership positions within the church unless she responded by sending sexually explicit images back.
When his first victim got a boyfriend in 2019, Cuprik quickly moved on to a 13-year-old girl.
"How young was he willing to go?" Andrews asked, expressing shock at how quickly he moved from one victim to another.
Local law enforcement became aware of an issue in March 2021 when they were called due to a confrontation between Cuprik and the second victim's family.
During a 30-minute chase, the victim was in the vehicle with Cuprik and later told investigators that she was terrified.
During the investigation, it was revealed that Cuprik had not only sent images to her, asking for explicit images in return, but that he had also sexually assaulted her in a vehicle and then forced her to take the morning after pill during a video call so that he could be sure she took the pill.
She told the judge during sentencing that Cuprik had convinced her that her family was crazy and that he would marry her when she turned 18. As a result, she admitted that she was willing to do anything for him at the time.
Cuprik apologized to the two girls during the sentencing hearing saying, "it was my job as the leader to set boundary lines and because I didn't, I crossed those lines."
He went on to say, "Whenever I try to get a job or move to a community this will always be against me, but it will always be my fault." Additionally, he expressed hope that some day they would be able to forgive him and said that he would pray for their healing.
Based on Cuprik's acceptance of responsibility, Judge Krichbaum agreed with Andrews' recommendation of the four year sentence. Cuprik's attorney, Ron Yarwood had argued for a three year sentence.
"Four years in prison is not a light sentence," Judge Krichbaum told Cuprik. "You will be severely punished."
Once released, Cuprik will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.