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Three officials with a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles have been charged as part of an alleged scheme to trick followers into becoming fundraisers and arrange sham marriages to keep them in the U.S.
Federal agents arrested the local leaders of Kingdom of Jesus Christ church during a raid last month. They were each charged Wednesday. Conspiring to commit forced labor trafficking and immigration and marriage fraud were some of the charges, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The article goes on to state the following:
Guia Cabactulan, 59, was the church’s top official in the United States, according to the indictment. Marissa Duenas, 41, allegedly handled immigration matters as the “human resources leader” and investigators believe Amanda Estopare, 48, tracked fundraising and funneled money to the church’s leadership in the Philippines, the newspaper reported Thursday.
People who claim to have escaped from the church said they were sent into the U.S. to work long hours, raising funds for the church’s charity, Children’s Joy Foundation USA, according to statements made to the FBI.
They also say they were “beaten and psychologically abused” for not making daily quotas, some claiming they had to live in cars at truck stops, according to an affidavit, Fox reports
The complaint said a majority of what the workers was used to “finance church operations and fund the leaders’ lavish lifestyles,” the report states.
“Israelito Torreon, an attorney for the church in the Philippines, previously said the U.S. charges stemmed from a campaign, waged by disgruntled ex-members, ‘to exact revenge’ and drag the church and its leader, Apollo Quiboloy, ‘into a quagmire of shame, blatant humiliation and defeat,’” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The church has 6 million members, according to Fox News.
Three leaders of Philippines-based church in Van Nuys indicted on human trafficking, immigration charges https://t.co/731ucXsYtR
— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) February 14, 2020
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