The charismatic leader of a controversial church, previously accused of being a cult that brainwashed young members away from their families, is facing sexual assault charges related to an incident with a church member in Hamilton more than eight years ago.
The complainant, a woman, came forward to police in the summer to report a sexual assault in 2006 to 2007, said acting Insp. David Hennick.
At that time the church was Dominion Christian Centre on Park Street North, near Cannon Street West, in Hamilton. In 2014, it moved to Burlington on Plains Road West near the Royal Botanical Gardens and now uses the name One Community Church.
"The accused is the pastor and leader of this religious organization," Hennick said.
On Sept. 4, 50-year-old Peter Rigo of Hamilton was charged with sexual assault and an indecent act. He was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date. The charges relate to a single incident.
The church's board of directors released a statement Wednesday, saying it aware of the allegations and of its pastors.
"We trust the judicial system and it's (sic) process to find this allegation false. We know our Pastor as a dedicated husband, father and friend and we steadfastly support him during this time."
Hennick would not disclose any more details, but said investigators believe there may be more victims.
The evangelical church, now located at 1273 Plains Rd. W., was stripped of its charity status in 2009 for spending donor money on gym memberships, trips to Hawaii and high-end fashion. That status has not been reinstated.
Rigo and the church were the subject of a 2006 W-Five documentary where some parents said the church was a cult that had stolen their children.
The congregation is thought to be largely young adults, captivated by the charismatic pastor.
The church was at the centre of a kidnapping case where a Milton couple was accused of abducting their adult daughter, who they believed had been brainwashed.
The charges against the couple were stayed in 2009.
Rigo's Twitter account appears to show he was in Las Vegas this week. After news of his charges broke, those posts were removed and his profile picture changed.
In 2010, The Spectator reported the One Community Church had a membership hovering around 80, but it's believed to have grown since then.
According to a video that was on the church's website last year, the Burlington facility has the capacity to hold 275 people. According to the One Community website, the group's beliefs include a literal interpretation of the Bible and the divine healing of sickness.
Hennick said police did not immediately release information about the charges for investigative reasons.