A Boy Scout leader from Elba was arrested by state police following an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse.
Troopers say 55-year-old Ronald Rowcliffe, a leader at Camp Massawepie along Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks, sexually abused multiple victims ranging in age from 12 to 14 during the summers of 2017-2019.
Steven Hoitt, CEO of the Seneca Waterways Council Scout, which owns Camp Massawepie and runs the Boy Scout programs in our area, issued this statement following Rowcliffe’s arrest:
“Early in our summer camp season Scouts reported allegations of inappropriate actions by one of our staff members. We immediately terminated the camp staff employee in question, turned the issue over to investigators who we are fully cooperating with, and took immediate action to prohibit the accused individual from any further participation in the Scouting program.”
But News10NBC did some digging and found this is not the first time we’ve reported on Rowcliffe. He was accused of inappropriate behavior with young boys back in the ’90s while he was a police officer in the village of Holley and a member of the fire department.
Rowcliffe was accused of making three teens in the Fire Explorers Club strip naked in his apartment while he gave them haircuts. He was fired as a police officer but never criminally charged.
So, how did a man accused of inappropriate behavior in the past become a scoutmaster and employee at the summer camp?
“None of those issues appeared in any criminal background checks performed by the Boy Scouts on Mr. Rowcliffe,” Hoitt said in a statement. “We have independently verified with State Police that for unknown reasons no criminal charges were ever filed and there would have been no way for any youth agency to be aware of sexual abuse complaints against Mr. Rowcliffe while he was a member of the Holley Police Department. Sadly, had a different action been taken in 2001 this issue would have been completely avoidable.”
Rowcliffe is facing charges of two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one count each of forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child.
He was arraigned and remanded to the St. Lawrence County Jail with bail set at $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bail bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
More charges are pending against him. If anyone has information about this case or believes they know a victim or could be a victim themselves, they are asked to contact New York State Police at (518) 873-2750.