CROWN POINT | The FBI has confirmed it is investigating whether the teenage girl who is reported to have had an affair with a former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond is a minor.
Robert Ramsey, FBI supervisory senior resident agent, said Tuesday the investigation will look into whether Jack Schaap transported the female church member across state lines for illegal sexual activity and whether she was below the federal age of consent, which is 18 years old.
There are allegations Schaap and a female visited a Cook County Forest Preserve. Forest Preserve police said last week they have not been approached by anyone to investigate the matter.
Church spokesmen said last week the girl involved in the situation is 17 years old. They said a church board of deacons dismissed Schaap, leader for 11 years of its 15,000-strong congregation, over the matter and have been cooperating with legal authorities.
Ramsey said, "We received a number of complaints in our office, and I opened an investigation. Two agents from my squad are assigned the case, and we have conducted interviews and collected evidence.
"The U.S. attorney's office in Hammond is the final decision-maker in terms of filing charges, and there is consultation with them as we go forward. It's an ongoing process," Ramsey said.
Patti Van Til, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said Tuesday there is no new development to announce in her department's parallel investigation of Schaap.
Sheriff John Buncich said last week the focus of his investigation is whether Schaap was involved in misconduct with a juvenile. Indiana law sets the age of consent at 16 in most cases. In Illinois, it is 17.