A California church deacon allegedly sexually abused numerous boys on religious mission trips under the guise of inspecting their genitals for “concerning” moles—helping protect the children, he told them, from the ravages of skin cancer.
The abuse dates back to at least 2009, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Sacramento federal court upon his July 7 arrest and reported first by The Daily Beast.
Bradley Earl Reger, 67, “used his position of authority… to groom children and continually grope their naked genitals for his own sexual pleasure,” federal prosecutors said in a detention memo after Reger was taken into custody. Local police first received reports in 2003 of abuse by Reger, who “never seemed to run out of teenage boys whose genitals he could fondle under the guise of medical ‘exams,’” according to the memo.
Reger, who lives in the small town of Susanville, has owned and operated several ambulance and lifeflight services in Northern California and Nevada, and has been “heavily involved in various Christian schools, summer camps, youth groups, and church missions,” the filing continues. “He has held positions as a teacher, camp counselor, wrestling coach, church deacon, youth group leader, board member of various school boards, and owner of affiliated non-profit organizations.”
Many of the boys were abused on international “Work and Witness” trips affiliated with the Susanville Church of the Nazarene, according to a July 4 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigation report attached to the detention memo. The assaults occurred in, among other countries, Poland, Ukraine, and the Philippines, it says. Prosecutors say others took place in Reger’s Susanville health clinic, on camping trips, and inside vehicles.
One victim told The Daily Beast on Monday that he no longer wanted to be a nameless detail in court filings but rather, himself.
“I want at least one person attached to this not to be an anonymous victim, I would like at least one real name,” Zack Winfrey said. “Some of the other guys are wanting to put their names to this, maybe later. But at least for right now, I’d like it if there was at least one real name on this, and we weren’t all just identified anonymously.”
Winfrey said he has been working with the feds to build a case against Reger since last November, but that news of the arrest still took him by surprise.
“I’ve been pushing for something to happen for a long time,” he said. “And most of us had pretty much given up on the fact that anything would ever happen.”
Reger was arrested as he returned home from a trip to Colorado, according to court records. When he wasn’t looking for nonexistent moles, he coerced victims into letting him grope them using “concerns about… hypothermia, about chlorine eye irritation, about intestinal problems all as pretenses to conduct ‘exams’ and touch minors’ naked genitals,” the detention memo alleges. Some children were forcibly held down while Reger penetrated them with his fingers, it goes on. Others were told their semen needed to be tested, and were instructed to ejaculate, according to the memo. One victim said Reger chalked his stomach problems up to hydrocele, or a buildup of fluid in the scrotum. Reger then “repeatedly used a device called a doppler ultrasound to stimulate blood flow to that victim’s testicles and penis… approximately once per month and before each trip,” the detention memo states.
Prosecutors say they have evidence of sexual abuse by Reger involving at least a dozen victims from age 12 to 22, and believe there are “likely many more victims that will be confirmed following the defendant’s arrest.” However, Winfrey wrote in a letter to the judge in Reger’s case that he “personally” knows over 100 children Reger abused, and “dozens of others” that he has never met in person.
“There is not a day and often not even an hour that goes by, where I do not think about the abuse I went through…the humiliation, the fear…the coldness of his soul or the sound of his voice…the feeling of his skin on mine, and the sound of his breath,” Winfrey wrote to the court under the pseudonym Victim #1, pleading for Reger to be held without bail. “It haunts me. He should not be allowed to walk out of this courtroom and terrorize the community. He must be detained for the safety of all. Any other action would [be] inexcusable, and itself evil. Do not let this man walk out of this courtroom.”
An assistant to Church of the Nazarene General Secretary Gary Hartke told The Daily Beast on Monday that all inquiries about Reger’s status with the organization were to be submitted in writing. (Hartke had not yet responded at the time of publication.) The main phone number for the church’s Susanville chapter was out of service on Monday, and a request for comment sent via email went unanswered.
Reger’s court-appointed lawyer, federal defender Mia Crager, said in an email, “The formal indictment charges have not yet been filed against Mr Reger. Once they are, and once the prosecution makes their evidence available for review by the defense, we will begin the process of evaluating the charges. At this time, I do not have any further information about the investigation beyond what has been filed on the public docket.”
Reger’s wife died in 2013, according to public records.
The investigation leading to the complaint against Reger began last fall, when the general counsel for the Church of the Nazarene reported Reger to child protective services in California and the state’s nursing board, the complaint states.
The Church of the Nazarene had opened its own investigation into Rege in June 2022, about four months after being contacted by someone who accused Reger of grooming him as a minor and molesting him from 2016 through 2020. Internal investigators identified between 10 and 15 minors and “several more” adults who had been victimized by Reger during interstate or international trips, the complaint says. However, the investigation only focused on victims within the church.
When the federal and state authorities picked up the baton in November, investigators discovered that the Susanville Police Department had eyed Reger in 2003, 2006, and 2007 based on multiple independent allegations of sexual abuse leveled by a dozen boys, according to the complaint. No criminal charges were ever brought so detectives reinterviewed eight of the 12 accusers, which “revealed a consistent pattern of behavior that Reger used to identify and groom his victims and detailed reoccurring methods that he used to sexually abuse them under the guise of legitimate medical treatment.”
In 2008, Reger convinced the parents of a 12-year-old, identified in the complaint as “Minor Victim #3,” that “boys need exposure to outdoor adventure and discussed the camping trips he led in Alaska,” the complaint goes on.
Reger paid for Minor Victim #3 to join him on trips to Reno, Nevada, and Alaska, where he would give the boy a “physical exam” consisting of a purported medical checkup, during which he took a urine test and performed a “genital inspection.” He then checked the boy’s “entire nude body for moles,” instructing him to get an erection so he could better view the mole, the complaint continues.
In late 2009, Reger invited Minor Victim #3 and his family on a medical assistance mission to the Philippines, and financed the entire thing, according to the complaint. While there, Minor Victim #3 came down with a cough that Reger diagnosed as pneumonia. He told the boy’s family the boy should stay with him in his Manila hotel room instead of traveling to a local clinic, the complaint states.
Inside the room, Reger once again subjected the boy to a “physical exam,” including a “mole inspection,” then “gave him a long hug with a prayer,” when it was over, the complaint says.“This ‘exam’ process repeated on every trip and continued at random times in hotel rooms or camper vans whenever Minor Victim #3 saw Reger,” according to the complaint. “Reger continually discussed the dangers of skin cancer. He said the mole on Minor Victim #3’s penis could cause impotence or otherwise affect sexual experience if it got bad. At the end of each exam, Reger noted the mole on his penis was concerning and needed further monitoring.”
Two victims, now adults, told investigators that Reger reappeared years after the alleged abuse, meeting with them shortly before their weddings to advise them “on how to sexually please their wives,” according to prosecutors.
“For one of those victims, shortly before he got married, [Reger] gave him an ‘exam’ as he had in the past,” the detention memo states.
The night before Reger was arrested, he was seen attempting to engage a young girl—whom he “did not appear to know”—at the Reno, Nevada airport, the detention memo says. He was also allegedly exchanging messages as recently as June with “someone associated with an orphanage in Kenya, where he had previously traveled.”
Winfrey told The Daily Beast that he was shocked when a team of investigators contacted him in October 2022 following what he said had been countless attempts at getting someone to take his allegations seriously. So when he went to Manhattan a month later to meet with federal prosecutors, he said he thought to himself, “Holy shit, something’s finally gonna happen.”
He said he and other victims waited months for word of an arrest. The feds originally told him they would try to arrest Reger before the summer rolled around. But, Winfrey said, Reger had traveled out of the U.S., which meant an arrest would have to wait until he returned. Winfrey said he became “kind of pessimistic, and thought, ‘Oh, it’s probably going to be August or September at this point.’”
“We were just waiting, just waiting, just waiting,” Winfrey said, adding that he got a call “out of nowhere” last Thursday from a Department of Justice victim services coordinator with news that Reger had been nabbed.
“They were calling me from inside of his living room,” Winfrey said, “maybe like an hour after they arrested him… I can’t even tell you, I just spent all night on the phone with six other [victims]. One of them lives overseas now, so we were WhatsApp calling, you know, and just, ecstatic.”
Prosecutors believe Reger, who visited 235 countries between 2004 and 2023, according to the DHS investigation report, will flee if allowed to go free pending trial.
“During the search of [Reger’s] commercial property, agents found a file drawer filled with photocopies of passports of young men, many of whom are victims in this case, as well as travel and immigration documents,” it says, adding that agents also discovered, among other things, “a rubber-type mold of testicles that some victims described the defendant using as he taught them to do self-examinations of their genitals.”
An open letter to Reger from Winfrey, which he posted on Medium in 2018, is included in the detention memo.
“You are a disgusting and vile man,” it reads. “Everything about you is abhorrent and makes me sick. When I think of monsters, I see your face. When I have nightmares, you are the boogie man that I cannot ever get away from. Your loathsome face haunts my waking moments. You are the piece of my past that I will never be able to escape; no matter how much liquor I drown myself in in my feeble attempts to erase you. You are human garbage, but unfortunately society will not dispose of you. You continue to be allowed to walk around with [the] rest of us, free to prey on the weak and innocent.”
On Friday, Winfrey said he and another victim were in court as Reger appeared at his arraignment in a wheelchair and an orange jumpsuit. It was striking to see the man accused of such horrific abuse now looking so “feeble and weak,” Winfrey claimed.
Reger remains jailed without bond, pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.