Manitoba

Winnipeg pastor charged with sex offences in California pleads not guilty

A Winnipeg pastor facing charges in California of arranging to meet a 15-year-old for sex has pleaded not guilty and was released on $25,000 bail just days after his arrest, court documents show.

Nathan George Rieger, 53, faces 2 charges including arranging to meet with a minor for a sexual act

Nathan George Rieger, 53, worked as a pastor at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church on Main Street. (School of Mercy and Justice/Facebook)

A Winnipeg pastor facing charges in California for allegedly arranging to meet a 15-year-old for sex has pleaded not guilty and was released on $25,000 US bail just days after his arrest, court documents show.

Nathan George Rieger was arrested on Aug. 10 in Arroyo Grande, about 128 kilometres northwest of Santa Barbara, and charged with arranging to meet with a minor for a sexual act and meeting with a minor for a sexual act, according to Arroyo Grande Police Department records.

Rieger entered a not guilty plea on Thursday.

The 53-year-old has resigned from his pastor position at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church on Main Street where he worked for 19 years.

His departure and criminal charges were announced at a church service on Aug. 19.

Officers first began investigating Rieger on Aug. 8 as part of an undercover sting operation.

"There's a whole network of people that are looking to have sex with minors and we have a detective bureau that is designated to have conversations with these people that are seeking to have sex with minors," said Cmdr. Shawn Cosgrove with the Arroyo Grande Police Department earlier this week.

Cosgrove said officers created an avatar of a 15-year-old girl, which they used to communicate with Rieger.

Reiger was arrested on Aug. 10 by the Arroyo Grande Police Department. (Arroyo Grande Police Department)

When reached by phone Thursday, Rieger's lawyer Charles Magill wouldn't comment on what his client's defence might be, only to say his client was upset by the charges.

"Of course he's upset about being accused of the crime he's been accused of," Magill said.

Magill said there are no terms on Rieger's bail, only that he has to make his court appearances.

The district attorney for the County of San Luis Obispo confirmed that Rieger was released without conditions from the court but added there could be conditions set by the bail bond company that put up his bail.

Magill wouldn't say if Rieger had to forfeit his passport.

Rieger's next court appearance is Aug. 30 in San Luis Obispo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Holly Caruk

Video Journalist

Holly Caruk is a video journalist with CBC Manitoba. She began her career as a photo journalist in 2007 and began reporting in 2015. Born and raised in Manitoba, Holly is a graduate of the University of Manitoba's film studies program and Red River College's creative communications program. Email: holly.caruk@cbc.ca

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Austin Grabish

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