In a video posted to TikTok, a user called Truecrimecam told their followers the bombshell news from the YouTube community: Jared Leisek, creator of a popular scuba-diving missing persons team, is facing serious criminal accusations. “The founder of Adventures With Purpose was just charged with two counts of child ‘R,’” Cams says, using an abbreviation for rape to avoid the broadstroke moderation of certain sensitive content on the platform. She holds a tiny microphone as images from the Adventures With Purpose YouTube channel are displayed via greenscreen behind her. The video has been viewed more than 6.7 million times. 

Leisek, 47, is charged with raping his cousin when he was 17 and his cousin was nine or 10. According to the charging documents, which were obtained by Rolling Stone, the alleged crimes occurred on two occasions in 1992 in Utah: once at the alleged victim’s home, and once at their grandparents’ house. Since the charges were filed earlier this month, the online community has been grappling with the fall from grace of someone previously respected for being one of the good guys — someone making a difference for victims and their families — and a community of scuba-diving search teams is preparing to move ahead without their leader. Leisek’s lawyer says the allegations are fabricated and he plans to plead not guilty. According to a former friend and fellow YouTuber who spoke with Rolling Stone, Leisek pointed him toward emails with the alleged victim where he does not deny the allegations.

Leisek founded Adventures With Purpose in 2019 as an environmental clean-up effort, dredging bodies of water for discarded vehicles and other garbage, but the group soon pivoted. Leisek and a growing community of scuba-diving YouTubers began using their search skills to find missing persons, usually in cars that had vanished underwater. Most recently, AWP found the remains of Kiely Rodni, a 16-year-old who disappeared from a Northern California party in August, but the group claims to have solved nearly two dozen cases. 

Recently, fans noticed Leisek had been appearing less frequently in videos on AWP’s YouTube channel, which has nearly 2.8 million subscribers. “A couple months ago…Jared started showing his face less and less in these videos and no one knew why,” Truecrimecam said in her viral video. On Nov. 3, the charges were filed. A probable cause statement laid out the disturbing allegations, claiming that in one instance, Leisek “pinned the victim to the ground, pulled her underwear down and put his penis in her vagina.” On the second occasion, Leisek allegedly “laid on top of the victim and put his penis in her vagina.” The state does not have a statute of limitations on most sex crimes. Reached for comment, Leisek’s attorney Randall Richards says they plan to fight the charges and claims the alleged rapes never occurred. “We have some evidence we can’t disclose at this point which would verify that she’s lying about this,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We are going to fight this all the way because it just didn’t happen.” Leisek  is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on Nov. 30, at which point Richards says Leisek will enter a plea of not guilty. The Sanpete County Attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The online community has been swift to condemn Leisek. While AWP still has close to 2.8 million subscribers, they’ve lost around 20,000 in the last two weeks. On Reddit, one-time fans have shared information for getting back donations to the group’s efforts. One person asked for advice on removing AWP logos from emergency window breakers the group sold to help people prepare to escape from a sinking car. (Sandpaper and a Magic Eraser did the trick.) Meanwhile, Leisek’s colleagues have scrambled to distance themself from AWP. At least four former members posted resignation announcements on YouTube. Clips of the statements have been posted to TikTok, gathering tens of thousands of views. “I am just as shocked as everybody else,” said Doug Bishop in a video statement responding to the news. “It’s really unfortunate and heartbreaking.” Bishop, formerly AWP’s lead diver, said he has left the company. He added, “There’s victims out there that have a story to tell. I have been a voice for those victims, and I’m gonna continue to follow that passion and I know I’ll have the support to do so.”

Leisek’s sister, Chessica Leisek, has also recently posted on Facebook, using the hashtag #stopjaredleisek, and claiming that he “sexually assaulted” her and others. Chessica did not immediately respond to a request for an interview. Leisek has not been charged with any crimes related to Chessica’s allegations. 

Emails purported to be between Leisek and his cousin also surfaced on Reddit and circulated on TikTok and media outlets. In the emails, one person — seemingly Leisek’s cousin — wrote, “All these people may be calling you a hero and seeing that you’re doing such great things. But we both know the truth about you.” The respondent, who wrote from AWP’s email address and signed off as “Jared,” said, “I am so very sorry for the things that we cannot change. It is unfortunate when families like ours experience molestation.” The emailer said he’d spoken publicly before about “the unfortunate shit that has happened within families,” and pondered whether they should blame their family “lineage” or Mormonism. (Leisek has said on his channel that he grew up in the Church of Latter-Day Saints before giving up religion when he was 27.) The first writer replied, “If you truly want to apologize then pay for your actions. Walk into a police station with me and confess your actions, get it on record, and have yourself registered as a sex offender that you are.” The AWP email address encouraged the writer to “stop the cycle.” “Protect your own children and grandchildren as we have to help the world become a better place,” he wrote.

Seeking confirmation of the emails’ veracity, some social media users have pointed to a livestream from scuba diver Jeremy Sides, who runs the channel Exploring with Nug. He described texting with Leisek after the charges came out, and claims Leisek told him the emails circulating online represent his only public statement on the matter. Richards, Leisek’s lawyer says he has not seen the emails yet and declined to comment on them. “We do dispute that there was any kind of rape,” Richards says. In the text exchange, which Sides shared with Rolling Stone, he reached out to Leisek on Nov. 5, at which point he thought the news might be nothing but rumors. “I thought somebody’s out for a money grab, before I knew any of the facts,” Sides tells Rolling Stone. “I was assuming this couldn’t be true.” He texted Leisek, “Ok so you know I’m always on your side. The stories popping up about you online are pretty intense. Let me know what I can do to help you out.” Leisek responded, saying, “The letter that you see online that I’ve written to my cousin is my official response at this time.” Based on that text, Sides says he now believes the charges against Leisek, whom he once considered a “mentor.” “It was never a denial,” Sides says, describing the emails. “He never said I don’t know what you think happened but it didn’t. It was some very damning evidence.”

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Update Nov. 17, 2022, 12:25 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comment from Jared Leisek’s attorney.

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