Matthew E. Linngren, a former church youth director, was to report to prison soon for an Internet porn conviction.
A former church youth director shed his electronic ankle bracelet and was on the loose Friday, just days before the Fridley man was to begin serving 15 years for distributing hundreds of pornographic images of boys and men on the Internet, authorities said.
A nationwide warrant was issued for the arrest of Matthew E. Linngren, 38, who was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in St. Paul by Judge Donovan Frank. Linngren's criminal history includes a conviction for having sexual contact with a 10-year-old boy while with the Columbia Heights church.
"His whereabouts are unknown," said Deputy Tom Volk of the U.S. Marshals Service. "We are currently attempting to contact him and locate him."
Volk said that Linngren was on a home-monitoring program, and "there was an alert that he violated that."
Les Linngren said his son's probation officer called Wednesday night reporting that Matthew hadn't come home.
"We don't know if he's dead or on the run," Les Linngren said. Asked whether his son might harm himself, the father said, "How would you feel if you were facing 15 years in prison?"
Frank said that in his 12 or so years on the federal bench this is "probably the second or third time out of hundreds of cases" that a defendant took off before sentencing.
Matthew Linngren was scheduled to report for prison no later than Sept. 22. The court recommended that Linngren be imprisoned in Minnesota so he could be close to his elderly parents, other family and friends.
Les Linngren said his son was assigned to the penitentiary in Sandstone, Minnesota's largest federal prison, with nearly 1,400 men confined at the low-security facility about 80 miles north of his parents' Twin Cities home.
However, the judge said, "it's a certainty now" that the federal Bureau of Prisons will not send Linngren to Sandstone but to a higher-security facility that "won't be in Minnesota or a contiguous state." Also, he'll face an additional charge, and additional time, for absconding.
In his plea agreement, he admitted sending sexually explicit photos to an Internet group in 2005. The sexual contact occurred in 1997 at the Missouri Synod Lutheran church where Linngren was youth director. Court records described it as "a fleeting event" of "buttocks touching." He was charged with fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a gross misdemeanor.
He made an Alford plea in that case, meaning he admitted no wrongdoing but acknowledged there was sufficient evidence for conviction.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482