Jan. 22, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Catholic deacon from Maspeth was caught trying to engage a 14-year-old boy in a sex act through an undercover sting Tuesday.
Rogelio Vega — who serves as a deacon at Saint Sebastian Church in Woodside — allegedly conversed with an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old boy for months on the dating app Grindr before luring him to meet in person.
Vega, 50, began talking to the undercover officer — who told the deacon he was just 14 — on Grindr on July 22, 2020.
He used sexually-explicit language in their chats and sent the “teen” photos of his genitals on three separate occasions. He also asked the “teenage boy” to send him nude photos of himself and meet up with him in person for oral sex, according to the charges.
On Jan. 19, 2021, Vega again asked the “teen” to meet in person. He drove to a pre-arranged place with the expectation of oral sex, the charges state. When he flashed his car headlights, the “boy” got into the car and Vega asked him what sexual acts he enjoyed. The undercover officer then identified himself and arrested the deacon.
Vega, of 59th Drive, was arraigned at Queens Criminal Court Wednesday night on charges of attempted use of a child in a sexual performance, attempted criminal sexual act, attempted disseminating indecent material to a minor and attempted endangering the welfare of a child.
He is set to return to court on Jan. 25. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.
Vega has worked as a deacon at Saint Sebastian Roman Catholic Church in Woodside since 2015, according to the church website.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn — which oversees Saint Sebastian Church — said it was disturbed by the charges.
“We are horrified by the arrest and charges against Rogelio Vega,” a spokesperson for the diocese said. “The Diocese of Brooklyn is committed to a Zero Tolerance Policy, as nothing is more important than the protection of children. Rogelio Vega has been immediately suspended.”
The spokesperson added that there has never been any complaints against Vega since he was ordained in May 2011.
Vega has a wife, four children and a grandson, according to his staff bio on the church site.
“This defendant by all outward appearances is a church-going family man,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “Sadly, the real person under the sheep’s clothing is an alleged sexual predator who sought out a teenage boy to fulfill his needs.”