City News Service

Charges Filed Against Church ‘Youth Mentor' Accused of Molesting 2 Teen Boys

Investigators are concerned there may be more victims

Nearly a half-dozen felony charges were filed Tuesday against a 32-year-old church "youth mentor" accused of molesting two 14-year-old boys.

Ruven Meulenberg of Lake Forest made his initial court appearance this afternoon on three counts of lewd acts on a child 14 or 15 years old and two counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14.

His arraignment was postponed for 10 days, and he was ordered to remain in custody in lieu of $1 million bail.

Sheriff's deputies got a tip last Wednesday that a junior high school youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest was allegedly involved in an "inappropriate relationship'' with a 14-year-old boy. As deputies investigated that report, they found another 14-year-old boy who was also allegedly victimized.

The teens alleged they had "engaged in inappropriate conduct'' with Meulenberg over the past year as he volunteered at the church, according to sheriff's officials. Investigators allege some of the "lewd and inappropriate conduct" occurred on the church campus.

One of the boys attends the church and was part of a Junior High Ministry program when he was allegedly molested.

The dates of the alleged incidents are May 22 and May 18 of this year and May 10 of last year, according to court records.

A letter sent to the congregation stated that Meulenberg had "no record of arrest or criminal charges" when he submitted to a background check in place to screen volunteers.

"To be considered for volunteering with kids or students, we require fingerprinting, professional background checks and personal interviews,'' according to the letter.

The church also requires volunteers working with students or children to undergo annual training "regarding appropriate conduct,'' according to the letter signed by Kurt Johnston, student ministries pastor and elder, and Steve Johnson, executive pastor and elder.

The church elders said they were "shocked and grieved.'' When the allegations came to the attention of church officials, they called sheriff's deputies, who arrested the suspect the next day, Johnston and Johnson said.

Meulenberg has been volunteering at the church for about six years, so investigators are concerned there may be more victims, deputies said.

Anyone with relevant information for investigators was asked to call (714) 647-7418 or (714) 647-7000. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at (855) TIP-OCCS.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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