The founder of an Auckland church has admitted his part in a Northland under-age sex ring.
Michael Cornelis Weitenberg, 55, of Mairangi Bay, pleaded guilty in the Kaikohe District Court yesterday to receiving commercial sexual services from a 15-year-old, an offence under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.
Weitenberg was excused from appearing in court with his lawyer entering the plea via audio-visual link instead.
The Facebook page of the Futurecaster Church in Albany, which has since been taken down, described Weitenberg as a church founder, senior elder and prophet. The small pentecostal church's website has also now been deleted.
Weitenberg was one of three men whose cases were called in court yesterday in relation to an under-age prostitution ring busted by police after a complaint in the Bay of Islands in February this year.
Court records showed Weitenberg's offending occurred at Paihia on February 9.
Weitenberg's lawyer, Karl Trotter, requested that sentencing be held in Auckland because his client had sold his car to make a "significant" reparation payment to the victim.
If it was held in Kaikohe he would need to use public transport which would involve at least one overnight stay.
However, Judge Keith de Ridder said it was a crime committed in Northland 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 whānau.
If they wanted to attend the sentencing there would be no question of shifting it out of Northland, though he was willing to consider sending it to Whangārei.
The date and location of the sentencing will be set on August 20.
Earlier in the day a 35-year-old Bay of Islands man appeared by audio-visual link on 20 charges arising from the police investigation into claims of under-age prostitution in the Bay of Islands.
He faces four charges of offering to enter into dealing with a person under 18 for sex, two of sexual violation of a 15-year-old, one of sexual violation of a 14-year-old, 11 of sexual connection with a 15-year-old and two of an indecent act on a 15-year-old.
The alleged offences occurred in Ōpua, Paihia and Kawakawa between December 15, 2019, and February 16, 2020.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared on screen with his head bowed and a beanie pulled low over his forehead.
He denies the charges.
Judge de Ridder said there was enough information before him to justify an interim order for name suppression.
He was further remanded in custody until October 1, when suppression will be revisited.
Also called in court yesterday was Calvin Fairburn, 37, of Kerikeri.
Fairburn, whose appearance was excused, faces charges of sexual connection with a 15-year-old and receiving commercial sexual services from a 15-year-old.
The alleged offences took place in Kerikeri on February 2. Fairburn denies committing the offences.
His lawyer did not oppose publication of his name but did oppose a media application to photograph him. That application will be discussed at his next appearance, a jury call over, on October 1.
Another two Northland men appeared in the Kaikohe District Court last month on related offences.
Marcus Barker, 54, pleaded guilty to one charge of sexual connection with a young person and another of providing a contract for sex. He is due to be sentenced on September 4.
Owen Sigley admitted one charge of receiving commercial sexual services and was remanded on bail for sentencing on October 5.