Courtney Wilson, a longtime active member of the Remnant Church of God 7th Day in the city's Cedarbrook section, often took an interest in the children of members of the congregation, offering to take them to church activities or to school.
To the other families in his church, Wilson was a friendly and helpful volunteer, police said.
On Sunday, five women who met Wilson as children went to the police, saying they suffered years of repeated sexual assaults at Wilson's hands.
The women, including a relative of Wilson's, range in age from 22 to 27, said Philadelphia Capt. John Darby. They said that the abuse began in 1997 and continued until 2005 and that it took place in their homes, in Wilson's house, in vehicles, and in a hotel.
"The youngest was about 10 years old when it began," said Darby, head of the Special Victims Unit.
Wilson, 56, of the 500 block of East Brinton Street in the city's East Germantown section, was charged Monday with multiple counts of 14 offenses, including rape, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, intimidation of a witness, statutory rape, and indecent assault.
At the time of his arrest, Darby said, Wilson worked for Carson Valley Children's Aid in Flourtown, a nonprofit children's welfare agency. Police have since contacted the organization, as well as the Department of Human Services, and the agencies are cooperating with the police investigation, Darby said.
A representative of the organization declined to comment Tuesday.
Investigators are not certain what motivated the women to come forward. Wilson had threatened at least one of them, Darby said, and said he would kill her if she went to the police.
Police say they believe there may be more victims and asked anyone with information to contact the Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251 or -3252.
The women told police that Wilson met them through church and got to know their families, Darby said. He took them to church activities, to school, or back home.
"People became comfortable with him," Darby said. "He gained the confidence of everyone."
A minivan with documents from the Carson Valley Children's Aid fund on the dashboard was parked outside Wilson's home Tuesday, but there was no answer at the door. Several overturned trash cans were lying on the front lawn of the vinyl-sided home. One of the front windows was shattered, and there were dead flowers in the window box.
One neighbor said that the family had lived in the home for about 15 years and that Wilson had children.
No one answered the door at the Remnant Church of God 7th Day, housed in a long red building on a commercial strip of Ogontz Avenue. A message left with the church's bishop was not returned.