New York Daily News
Qns. cleric could spend decades in slammer for molesting boys
A Queens church deacon should spend 30 years in federal prison after enticing three teenage boys he met online into having sex with him, federal prosecutors say.
Rogelio Vega, 52, is set to be sentenced Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court, after pleading guilty to three counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual conduct in September.
Vega was a deacon at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Woodside. He was uncovered as a sexual predator in January 2021 when he was caught in a sting operation trying to convince a detective he believed was a 14-year-old boy to have oral sex with him.
Vega, of Maspeth, communicated with the undercover cop via the dating site Grindr, exchanged sexually explicit messages for months, and sent pictures of his genitals.
They set up a meeting in Queens, and when the officer — who looked like a young boy — got into his car, Vega said he liked “top and oral,” then grabbed and massaged the inside of the officer’s left thigh, according to the feds.
He pleaded guilty in Queens court in October 2021 and was sentenced to 10 years probation and was registered as a sex offender.
The day of his guilty plea, though, the feds swooped in and hit him with new charges.
His seized cell phone showed evidence he communicated with several other victims.
“He conversed with his victims about school, homework and after school jobs while simultaneously asking them for nude photos and videos and to meet for sex,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Campbell said in a sentencing memo filed March 8.
“As his victims finished their school day and after-school jobs or left their homes and families, the defendant arranged to engage in sex acts with them in nearby neighborhoods or hotels.”
The feds identify three underage “John Doe” victims, including a 15-year-old boy he met on Grindr. Investigators found other potential victims on his phone, but couldn’t identify them or determine whether they were younger than the age of consent, the memo states.
“He was a hands-on offender who met his victims in his car, often picking them up near their homes or their schools, and took his victims to motels to engage in sexual acts,” Campbell wrote. “One of his victims described him as ‘pushy’ about wanting to engage in sex acts and described how the defendant offered money and drugs to encourage the victim to agree to penetrative sex.”
The 15-year-old boy said Vega tried to pressure him into having sex by offering him between $50 and $100 and nitrite “poppers,” a chemical psychoactive drugs, the feds said.
He told another victim, who met him for sex several times in his vehicle, not to tell anyone because they “could get arrested,” the feds said.
“For the defendant, this was not a one-time offense with a single victim,” Campbell wrote. “The defendant engaged in a pattern of seeking out vulnerable teenagers while living a double life as a deacon who was purportedly committed to the mission of helping vulnerable individuals.”
Vega’s defense lawyer’s sentencing memo has been sealed by the court. His lawyer, James Darrow, declined comment.
Vega remains locked up in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center until his sentencing before Judge Eric Komitee.