Former Georgia pastor pleads guilty to sexual assault of minor on missionary trip
Macon, Georgia: A statement released from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia through Project Safe Childhood indicates that 44-year-old Eric Tuininga has plead guilty to a charge that he sexually assaulted a girl while on a mission trip to Uganda.
Tuininga is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3, 2022 and faces a possible maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and the possibility of lifelong supervised release. The judge may also assess him a fine of up to $250,000. He will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life once he is released from prison.
The plea announcement indicates that the investigation began when a U.S. citizen affiliated with the church Tuininga was working with, the U.S.-based Orthodox Presbyterian Church, contacted the U.S. Embassy Kampala American Services to report that one of their ministers was having sex with girls as young as 14-years old in June, 2019.
An investigation was opened and it was determined that Tuininga had already returned to his home in Georgia.
Investigators identified a Ugandan girl who was 14-years-old in March 2019 when Tuininga sexually assaulted her while serving as a pastor.
According to the release, Tuininga admits that he met the girl through his capacity as a religious leader and that he sexually assaulted the girl.
"Tuininga was supposed to be someone that could be trusted, but instead he abused that trust and victimized a child," Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and Alabama said. "HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to utilize every resource available to identify, arrest and prosecute those who prey upon children."
Mark Bube, general secretary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's committee of foreign missions told the Associated Press that Tuininga was removed from missionary work in 2019 after they became aware of the allegations against him.
"We are all deeply grieved over this," Bube is quoted as saying in a telephone interview. "He has brought shame on the name of our savior Jesus Christ."
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