A 37-year-old Winnipeg man has been accused of befriending a 16-year-old girl from Singapore while playing an online video game — then repeatedly raping her and taking explicit nude photos after she came to Canada.

James Brian Stephenson was recently arrested on a string of serious criminal charges. Stephenson appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Friday where he was granted bail. A court-ordered ban prevents specific details of the hearing from being published. Stephenson’s release conditions include having no contact with the now 18-year-old woman or any children under the age of 16.

Sources say the teen and her mother got into Canada based on the fact she was apparently engaged to Stephenson, despite the considerable age difference between them. A sponsorship process was also underway at the time the criminal allegations began to surface. But the woman is now taking the position she is not involved romantically with him in any way.

Stephenson was first arrested last October and charged with assaulting the teen shortly after they began living together in Winnipeg last summer. Additional charges now of sexual assault, Internet luring and child pornography were laid as the investigation expanded.

Stephenson first met the teen while playing an online video game in 2012 — when she would have been just 16 and he was 35. He previously told the Free Press the pair then got “married” in the virtual world they were part of. He claims they quickly discovered several mutual interests, including music and martial arts, and continued chatting for several months.

The teen ended up flying to Winnipeg in April 2014 and met Stephenson shortly after she turned 18. Her 49-year-old mother came along as well. It was during this visit that the pair apparently got engaged and did a “ceremonial celebration of marriage” which they captured on video. The video shows Stephenson on bended knee proposing to the teen, and her mother giving both of them her blessing while warning Stephenson to take good care of her daughter.

Following that initial spring 2014 visit, the teen, accompanied by her mother, returned to Singapore to finish her schooling. They both returned to Winnipeg in July 2014 and began living with Stephenson at his East Kildonan condo.

That’s when police allege Stephenson began victimizing the teen. Stephenson repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in his previous interviews with Canadian media.

No trial dates have been set.

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