City News Service

Church Youth Mentor Arrested

A 32-year-old "youth mentor" at Saddleback Church was behind bars Friday on suspicion of engaging in "inappropriate conduct" with two 14-year-old boys.

Ruven Meulenberg of Lake Forest was arrested Thursday and booked on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a child. He was being held on $100,000 bail.

Sheriff's deputies were called Wednesday about a junior high school youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest being 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 allegedly a victim, sheriff's deputies said.

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

In a statement released Friday night, the church said they are "shocked and grieved." They said staff quickly reported the accusation to the Sheriff's Department.

"We ask you to do two things: First, please pray for the Saddleback families who are involved in this sad matter," the statement read. "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."

They said that for decades they've had "extremely high requirements and strict procedures in place" for anyone who volunteers in the student and children ministries. They require fingerprinting, background checks, interviews and annual training. They said the suspect had no record of arrest or criminal charges.

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

Contact Us