A San Luis Obispo jury convicted a former Canadian pastor on Friday of a felony count of arranging to meet a minor for lewd purposes, a charge that came as a result of a sting operation conducted by Arroyo Grande police.
This year, Arroyo Grande police have made an effort to catch adults who use the internet to seek sex with underage girls. In July, officers arrested a Grover Beach man who allegedly tried to solicit sex from a 15-year-old girl he met online, who was actually an undercover cop. The following month, Arroyo Grande police arrested Nathan Rieger, 53, in a nearly identical scenario.
Prior to his arrest, Rieger was a pastor at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church. He resigned following his arrest on Aug. 10 in a parking lot on West Branch Street, where he allegedly planned to meet an underage girl.
During Rieger’s trial, which garnered coverage in Canadian media, jurors heard testimony about the online conversation between Rieger and an Arroyo Grand police detective posing as a 15-year-old girl. They chatted for a week in early August, according to trial testimony.
Rieger stated during the chat he was 37 years old, and he made numerous sexual comments. Rieger allegedly stated he wanted to introduce the supposed girl to “new pleasures” and that he was an “experienced Dom” and that sex is “much nicer without a condom.”
The then-pastor allegedly wrote, “My career could be at stake because of your age.” He also allegedly stated that he knew the age of consent is 18, but he still thought he wanted to be with the girl.
Rieger took the stand in his own defense and claimed he was just role-playing, and he thought the supposed girl was an adult woman, who was role-playing as well. Jurors convicted Rieger following a weeklong trial and a half day of deliberation.
He now faces up to four years in state prison for the felony conviction. Rieger’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2018 in the courtroom of Judge Jacqueline Duffy.