Georgia pastor pleads guilty to illicit sexual conduct with teen during Uganda missionary trip

A former Georgia pastor has pleaded guilty to having engaged in illicit sexual conduct with a 14-year-old girl while on a missionary trip to Uganda in 2019.

Eric Tuininga, 44, of Milledgeville, entered the plea in federal court on Wednesday. Tuininga faces a maximum 30 years in prison followed by possible probation for life and a maximum $250,000 fine. He also will have to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

The incident happened in March 2019 in Mbale, Uganda. Tuininga, who is a US citizen affiliated with the U.S.-based Orthodox Presbyterian Church, was visiting in his role as a minister when he came in contact with the 14-year-old. The incident was later reported to the U.S. Embassy Kampala American Citizen Service and an investigation was launched. This week, he admitted to the illicit sexual conduct with the child.

"Eric Tuininga used his trusted position as a pastor to sexually assault a young Ugandan girl in his care. This was a challenging case, but law enforcement worked diligently to ensure that Tuininga did not escape justice for his crime overseas," said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. "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 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." 

Tuininga is expected to be sentenced on May 3.