Winnipeg pastor charged with sex crimes in California
Nathan George Rieger, 53, charged with trying to arrange to meet a minor for sex
A Winnipeg church says one of its pastors has been arrested by California police and charged with allegedly trying to set up a meeting to have sex with a minor.
Arrest records of the Arroyo Grande Police Department say Nathan George Rieger, 53, was arrested on Aug. 10. He was charged with arranging to meet with a minor for a sexual act and meeting with a minor for a sexual act.
The Arroyo Grande Police Department first began investigating Rieger on Aug. 8.
"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.
Officers created an avatar of a 15-year-old girl, which they used to communicate with Rieger, Cosgrove said.
Rieger has worked as a pastor for the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church on Main Street. The church released a statement Tuesday saying Rieger, who worked there for 19 years, had resigned his position. His departure and criminal charges were announced at a church service on Sunday.
The Winnipeg church, which is part of a worldwide group of 2,500 evangelical churches, regularly ministers to vulnerable people in the core area. The church community "was not prepared for this news which was given to the congregation last Sunday morning," the statement says.
"The church is transcending the challenges of this development and is optimistic that the impact we have on the goodness of our community will continue. Our commitment to the social and spiritual well-being of our parish and surrounding community will continue to thrive."
Joyce Rees is pastor of a Vineyard church in Calgary and part of the church's national team.
She said she'd been in contact with some members of Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church.
"There's denial, there's shock, there's anger. Just a whole bunch of responses," she said.
"Everyone takes bad news in differently. It's going to take time, and they're going to need care to get through this, and feelings of disappointment and deep grief."
At this point, she said she's not aware of any other allegations against Rieger.
The church's statement said Rieger has posted bail. He has a court date set for Aug. 23.
With files from CBC's Meaghan Ketcheson and Austin Grabish