ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The former owner of a south St. Louis pizza shop has been found guilty of eight separate counts of sex crimes against underage girls.
A federal judge announced the verdict in the trial of Loren Copp, who is also a former pastor, Wednesday in the U.S. District Court.
According to court documents, Copp rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 15 years. He could now face up to life in prison when he is sentenced April 5.
Copp is the former youth pastor and owner of Dojo Pizza, and at trial, claimed to be a trusted member of the community.
Prosecutors argued he used his position as a business owner, martial arts instructor and community activist to gain the trust of parents and gain access to their children.
He was arrested in April 2016, accused of possessing child pornography and attempting to produce it over a six-year period.
According to prosecutors, several underage girls lived at Dojo Pizza, which is located on Morganford in the Bevo Mill neighborhood. Copp either had sole custody or care of the girls because their parents were incarcerated or homeless, authorities said.
Copp allegedly forced the girls to work at the pizza shop and did not pay them appropriately or provide consistent food. He is also accused of threatening to kick the girls out when they didn’t work, which would leave them homeless.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Copp "groomed" the girls for abuse beginning in 2009.
"The grooming process began when defendant Copp began touching the victims’ buttocks while playing “the butt game,” which then led to him touching their vaginas and breasts. Eventually, Copp began having sex with both girls, and he would record the sex acts with a cell phone or video recorder," the release said.
He is also accused of making the girls sleep in beds with bed bugs. The girls reportedly contracted lice while under Copp’s care. Prosecutors allege Copp did not allow them to seek medical treatment.
Police and the FBI raided Dojo Pizza in November and December 2015 and said they found images of child pornography on a hard drive. One victim told authorities she performed a sex act with Copp when she was 12-years-old.
At the same time authorities were investigating the alleged child pornography they were also investigating an alleged human trafficking ring.
When Copp spoke with News 4 in February of 2016 he denied all allegations.
In April of 2017, was charged with five additional accounts related to abuse of a minor.
That indictment alleged Copp tried to get two girls to convince an underage girl to expose her breasts online.
His conviction on three counts of child pornography and the three counts of attempted production of child pornography all carry 15-year minimums.
Copp was also convicted on two counts of criminal enticement of a minor, each of which can carry up to a life sentence.
“The bravery of the victims who testified at trial was essential to this case,” said U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen. “Without them and the relentless work of the investigative and trial teams, these verdicts would not have been rendered.”