Saddleback Church Youth Mentor Preyed on Boys: Cops; More Lewd Cases
UPDATE, MAY 30, 3:03 P.M.: Arraignment was continued today to June 9 for Ruven Meulenberg, whose bail has been increased to $1 million as he now faces three felony counts of lewd acts on a child, two felony counts of lewd acts on a child under age 14 and a sentencing enhancement for multiple victims.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's office, Meulenberg committed lewd acts on two 13-year-old boys, on and off church property, between May 2016 and earlier this month, and then again, when both boys were 14, between May 18-22 of this year. Two days later, the OCDA, a Saddleback Church representative reported suspected inappropriate conduct to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Deputies arrested Meulenberg the next day, this past Thursday.
The following night, an email was sent to church members:
Dear Saddleback Family,
We are shocked and grieved to share that this week a Saddleback member reported that a student ministry volunteer had acted inappropriately with two 14-year-old boys. Of course, our staff quickly reported this accusation to our Orange County Sherriff’s Department. The next day, the volunteer was arrested on suspicion of the offense. The investigation of the accusation is now in the hands of the proper authorities.
We ask you to do two things: first, please pray for the Saddleback families who are involved in this sad matter; second, please pray for the investigators as they determine the facts. As followers of Jesus, we always want the whole truth to come out because Jesus taught us that lies enslave us, but the truth sets us free.
As a part of Saddleback, you know that our church has been built on the service of thousands of volunteers who donate hundreds of thousands of hours of their time. Most of you know that for decades we’ve had extremely high requirements and strict procedures in place for anyone who volunteers in our student and children ministries. To be considered for volunteering with kids or students, we require fingerprinting, professional background checks, and personal interviews. We also use services that report any illegal activity to us immediately. In this case, the accused volunteer had no record of arrest or criminal charges. Also, our church requires volunteers who work with students or children to complete an annual training regarding appropriate conduct. Our system of safeguards has safely served over 40,000 students and children for 38 years.
Please pray for everyone involved. We love you.
Kurt Johnston, Student Ministries Pastor & Elder Steve Johnson, Executive Pastor & Elder
ORIGINAL POST, MAY 29, 5:33 A.M.: A 32-year-old male youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest has been arrested on suspicion of inappropriate relations with at least two 14-year-old boys, but the Orange County Sheriff's Department fears there may be more victims.
A 56-year-old Garden Grove man is accused of sexually assaulting to two girls under the age of 14, but the Orange County District Attorney's office fears there may be more victims in this case, too.
Deputies are seeking a male who asked two 13-year-old girls on a playground to perform a sex act and, after they refused and left, chased one down and groped her.
Ruven Meulenberg of Lake Forest came under suspicion when sheriff's Special Victims Detail investigators were contacted on May 24 by a man alleging the Saddleback Church's volunteer junior high youth mentor was having an inappropriate relationship with an underage boy. The second alleged victim was identified during the course of the investigation, deputies say. Both claimed they had engaged in inappropriate conduct with Meulenberg for the past year, and that several incidents of lewd and inappropriate conduct happened on the church property, deputies say. One alleged victim is said to have been part of the church's youth ministry program. Meulenberg, who was arrested Thursday on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, was being held in Orange County Jail on $100,000 bail heading into an arraignment hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Because Meulenberg volunteered at the church for six years, and due to his leadership role and access to children, investigators fear there may be more victims. If that is you, someone you know or if you have any information that can help the investigation, call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Special Victim’s Detail at 714.647.7418 or 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips may also be left with Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855.847.6227 (1-855-TIP-OCCS) or via occrimestoppers.org.
Victor Norman Ealey has a June 6 arraignment hearing scheduled on two felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 and a sentencing enhancement for multiple victims. From Jan. 1, 2014, through Dec. 31, 2016, he is accused of committing lewd acts with a girl starting when she was about 10. That victim came forward to Garden Grove police investigators who were investigating the sexual assault of a second 10-year-old girl, who Ealey is accused of committing lewd acts upon around this past April 30. He was being held in Orange County Jail on $1 million bail, but the investigation is ongoing and anyone with additional information or who believes they may have been a victim is asked to contact OCDA Supervising District Attorney Investigator Eric Wiseman at 714.347.8794.
A male age 17 to 25 is being sought by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for molesting a 13-year-old girl. Around 8 p.m. May 22, two 13-year-old girls were sitting on swings at the Fairgreen Condominium complex playground in the 6600 block of Fairlynn Boulevard, Yorba Linda, where they were approached by a male who asked them to perform a sex act, deputies say. The girls refused and one of them walked away, soon to be joined by the second after the stranger made another lewd remark, according to deputies, who say he then gave chase. The male reached the second girl, pulled her pants and underwear down from behind and then held her girl as he groped her butt, say deputies, who add she was able to break free and run away. The groper is described as a white with dark-brown, curly hair covering the tops of his ears. He is about 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and was last seen wearing a light-colored T-shirt and black basketball shorts. Anyone who knows who he is should call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Detail at 714.647.7418 or 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips may also be left with to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855.847.6227 (1-855-TIP-OCCS) or via occrimestoppers.org.
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