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    Former Saddleback Youth pastor now accused of molesting fourth teenage boy
    • February 23, 2024

    A former Saddleback Church youth pastor who is awaiting retrial for allegedly molesting teenage boys is now accused of abusing a fourth boy he allegedly met through the church.

    Ruven Meulenberg, a 39-year-old Lake Forest resident, now faces an additional felony count of lewd acts upon a child 14 or 15 years old who is at least 10 years younger than the defendant, on top of similar charges he already faced in connection with a pair of related criminal cases, according to an Orange County District Attorney’s Office statement.

    “Strong mentors are meant to help our children navigate the difficulties of growing up and realize their full potential,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a written statement about the new allegations.. “Instead of providing the spiritual guidance he pretended to provide, this youth pastor seized on the vulnerabilities of these children for his own sick sexual gratification.”

    “He has not only forever shaken their belief in anyone in a position of trust and authority; he has irreparably damaged their faith and the faith of countless other parishioners who believed their children were safe with him and youth pastors everywhere,” The DA added.

    Meulenberg — who at one time appeared alongside his twin brother on a YouTube channel focused on gaming and music production — was convicted in 2018 of molesting twin brothers he met when they were young teenagers attending his youth ministry at Saddleback Church.

    A prosecutor alleged during that trial that Meulenberg kissed one of the boys on the mouth while he was sitting on Meulenberg’s lap in a darkened movie theater. During the trial, Meulenberg’s defense attorney flatly denied the charges, telling jurors that Meulenberg had “mentored countless kids over the years” and has “zero sexual attraction to boys.”

    The conviction was overturned due to jury misconduct. One of the jurors — a law office manager — was found to have improperly shared information about the psychiatric testing of subjects in criminal trials.

    A retrial related to that criminal case has been delayed repeatedly since 2019. The judges and attorneys assigned to the case have shifted multiple times, and the current attorneys have been busy with multiple other trials over the past several years.

    In the meantime, a second criminal case was opened in 2023 when a third boy came forward to allege that Meulenberg touched him inappropriately when he was 14-years-old between June 2017 and June 2018 while driving him home from a church event. The fourth alleged victim has now been added to that second criminal case, according to prosecutors.

    It isn’t yet clear whether the cases will be tried separately or at the same time. If convicted of all the charges he currently faces in both cases, Meulenberg faces more than 100 years to life in prison.

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    ​ Orange County Register