Frederick McLean is one of the most-wanted fugitives in the United States, charged with 17 counts of child sexual abuse in California. Law enforcement sources say that when a victim’s family confronted McLean in 2004, he allegedly confessed. But before he could be arrested, McLean fled.
Authorities identified at least eight victims that McLean allegedly abused over the course of nearly a decade. One victim estimated McLean molested her “over 100 times,” according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Deputy Marshal Thomas Maranda, who is leading the hunt for the 56-year-old fugitive, says McLean gained the trust of many of his victims through his leadership position, as a so-called ministerial servant, in his local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses near San Diego.
“His role in the church was significant,” Maranda explains, “because we believe that his participation in the church gave him access to his victims.”
His role in the church also became a matter of legal controversy. Last year, some victims’ families filed suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, alleging that both McLean’s local congregation and the church’s national headquarters, the Watchtower Society, “knew, or should have known, that Frederick McLean was a pedophile.”
The Jehovah's Witnesses recently agreed to pay to settle that lawsuit and eight other similar cases, without admitting wrongdoing. The cases all involved men the church allegedly knew had sexually abused children. The settlements for those cases are confidential and filed under seal.