Church founder pleads guilty to part in child sex ring

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 11 Aug 2020, 4:55PM
Michael Cornelis Weitenberg. Photo / Supplied
Michael Cornelis Weitenberg. Photo / Supplied

Church founder pleads guilty to part in child sex ring

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 11 Aug 2020, 4:55PM

The founder of an Auckland church has today admitted his part in a Northland under-age sex ring.

Michael Cornelis Weitenberg, 56, of Mairangi Bay, pleaded guilty via his lawyer in the Kaikohe District Court to a charge of receiving commercial sexual services from a 15-year-old.

Court records show the offence occurred at Paihia on February 9.

The website of the Futurecaster Church in Albany, which has since been taken down, described Weitenberg as a founder, senior elder and prophet.

Weitenberg's lawyer requested that the sentencing be held in Auckland because his client had sold his car to make a "significant" reparation payment to the victim.

However, Judge Keith de Ridder said it was a Northland crime, and there was a lot of interest in the case in Northland, so the sentencing should take place in Northland.

He would however wait to hear from the victim and her whanau. If they wanted to attend he would not allow the sentencing to take place outside Northland, though he would be willing to consider shifting it to Whang─ürei.

The date and location of the sentencing will be set on August 20.

A police media spokesperson said police were generally not able to make any comment until after sentencing had taken place, out of respect for the judicial process which is still ongoing until sentencing.

"We note that there are a number of people who have been arrested in connection to this case so it is unlikely that police would be in a position to comment on this case until all individuals have been through the courts."