Two men from North Texas were indicted by a grand jury on child pornography charges on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox announced.
The men are David Pettigrew, a 48-year-old from Denison, and Chad Michael Rider, a 46-year-old from Anna. Both were charged with conspiring to sexually exploit children, and Pettigrew has also been charged with transporting child pornography, officials said. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Pettigrew was the pastor of the Denison Church of the Nazarene until recently, officials said. Homeland Security Investigations agents executed federal search warrants at his home and the church on Aug. 6 and arrested him afterwards. The Grayson County Sheriff's Office was also part of the investigation.
Authorities said they first learned of Pettigrew by referrals from two "electronic surveillance providers," as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Officials said those referrals were about a computer user who had uploaded suspected child pornography onto their online platforms.
Agents then searched Rider's home on Aug. 21.
Authorities said the investigation has found "a number of children were surreptitiously photographed in private locations or outside of the presence of their parents."
Community members are being asked to send a detailed message about any possible private interactions with either man to an Homeland Security Investigations email: HSIDallasVictimInfo@ice.dhs.gov.
Anyone with any information about the case or possible victims is also urged to contact Homeland Security Investigations at that email address.
Pettigrew and Rider could face anywhere from 15 to 30 years in federal prison if convicted, officials said.
The investigation is part of a nationwide initiative started in 2006 called Project Safe Childhood that focuses on stopping children from being sexually exploited and abused via the internet.