An American missionary and former Pastor Eric Tuininga, 45, of Milledgeville, Georgia, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell after he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old Ugandan girl.
According to court documents, in June 2019, a U.S. citizen affiliated with the U.S.-based Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) operating in Mbale, Uganda, contacted the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, to report that Tuininga, one of the group’s ministers, was having sex with a Ugandan female minor under the organization’s care. An investigation into the allegations was launched by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DSS) agents in Kampala, Uganda. Although Tuininga had already returned to his home in the Middle District of Georgia, by the time the investigation commenced, the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Child Exploitation Unit, Atlanta, continued with the investigation.
A 14-year-old Ugandan girl who Tuininga had sex with while working as a pastor with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) was identified. Tuininga admitted in court that he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with the child in his capacity as a religious leader. He further confessed the act took place anytime the victim visited the OPC church and a religious compound under his care.
After pleading guilty to one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, Chief U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell sentenced Tuininga to serve 120 months in prison to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release and $20,000 in restitution to the victim. In addition, Tuininga must register as a sex offender upon his release from federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said “I want to recognize the true bravery displayed by the Ugandan girl for speaking out when she was assaulted by a trusted person of power from another country, courageously seeking justice across continents. Law enforcement – both abroad and here at home – took on a challenging international case. Homeland Security Investigations’ Child Exploitation Unit worked tirelessly to ensure that the truth was uncovered and the defendant was held accountable for his crime.”
He continued “Eric Tuininga used his trusted position as a pastor to sexually assault a young Ugandan girl in his care. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with our national and international law enforcement partners, will do everything in our power to catch child predators and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
“Tuininga was supposed to be someone that could be trusted, but instead he abused that trust and victimized a child,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to utilize every resource available to identify, arrest and prosecute those who prey upon children.”