March 15, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A disgraced former Catholic deacon from Maspeth has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for having sex with three teenage boys, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Rogelio Vega, 52, — who previously served as a deacon at Saint Sebastian Church in Woodside — was sentenced in Brooklyn Federal court on March 15, having previously pleaded guilty in September to three counts of enticing a child to engage in sexual conduct.
Vega wiped away tears and apologized to his victims — as well as his family — as the sentence was handed down to him. Vega was married with four kids when he was apprehended by police in 2021.
Vega admitted to meeting the boys separately on multiple occasions between 2015 and January 2021 – where he took part in sex acts with them. The victims were aged between 14 and 16 at the time. It is unclear where the sexual encounters took place.
The ex-deacon targeted the boys using the Kik messaging app — which is used primarily by teens and young adults — and the gay hook-up app Grindr where he expressed his interest in “young guys.”
Vega then met the boys for sexual encounters in his car or at motels, according to prosecutors.
“I wish things can be different and we can go back in time,” Vega said in court Wednesday, according to the New York Daily News. “I’d say sorry to [the victims] and to my family also because they’re struggling with what I have done.”
Vega said that he told his family to stay away from the court today, as he didn’t want to inflict any more pain on them.
Before the federal case, Vega had been sentenced to 10 years probation and listed on the sex offender registry in a state case — after he had been caught by police in a January 2021 sting operation trying to lure a 14-year-old boy to his car for sex acts.
The “teen” was actually an undercover cop and police subsequently searched Vega’s phone to find sexually explicit messages between him and the three boys. The federal case broadened the investigation to cover additional victims.
Vega was arrested on the federal charges on the same day he pleaded guilty to the state case, according to police sources. He has been in custody since then, police sources told the Queens Post.
He had worked as a deacon at Saint Sebastian Roman Catholic Church in Woodside from 2015 up until his arrest in January 2021. He was then removed from his duties by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn — which oversees Saint Sebastian Church.
Vega’s defense lawyer said in court today that Vega had been abused as a child, the New York Daily News reported.
According to federal court documents, Vega met one of the victims, a 16-year-old boy, approximately five to 10 times for sexual activity.
The encounters were initiated after Vega sent a series of sexually explicit messages to the boy via Kik — between April 2019 and December 2020 — where he expressed his clear interest in “young guys.” The victim also sent Vega around 20 sexually explicit images or videos.
The second victim in the federal case, a 14-year-old boy, told police he met Vega three or four times inside the deacon’s car — where they engaged in sexual activity.
The encounters occurred after Vega messaged the boy in July 2020 via Grindr, expressed his interest in “young guys” and asked the victim his age.
The boy responded, “14 but love older guys,” to which Vega wrote, “nice.”
The third victim in the federal case was 15 years old when Vega targeted him in 2015, prosecutors said. The victim told law enforcement that he met Vega three times when they engaged in sexual activity.
The abuse occurred despite the boy stating his age on his Grindr profile and telling Vega via the app that he was still attending school.
In one series of exchanges on the app, Vega told the boy to “bring condoms and something where we can lay down on,” and “don’t tell anyone about this.” Vega later texted the boy, “did you like it today?”
Vega had faced a statutory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn released a statement following Vega’s sentencing.
“We hope the healing process can begin for the victim-survivors in this case. We pray for them and all victim-survivors of sexual abuse.”
“These heinous acts betrayed not only his victims but damaged the sacred trust of the faithful.”
The Diocese, in its statement, asked residents to report suspected sexual abuse to its reporting line 888-634-4499.