A federal grand jury has indicted 3 executives of a church founded by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy for suspected labor trafficking and immigration fraud.
The 3 leaders of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ reportedly obtained fraudulent visas and other immigration documents for members of the church to enter and stay in the US.
Subsequently, they allegedly pressured church members to ask for donation for a fake charity that claims to help poor Filipino children, according to the jury’s late Wednesday indictment.
Defendants Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, and Amanda Estopare have been charged for forced labor trafficking, document servitude, immigration fraud and marriage fraud.
Cabactulan, 59, was previously described as a “top official” of the Church of Quiboloy who had direct ties with its Philippine leadership; whereas Duenas, 41, allegedly handled immigration documents and held passports of victims of an alleged human trafficking ring.
The 2 were caught in a raid on Van Nuys, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church compound in California.
In Virginia, Estopare, 48, who managed the “financial aspects” and fundraising of the church, was arrested too.
Federal prosecutors said the three leaders took church members to the U.S. under false pretences, often informing them they were invited to be special guests at a church ministry promoting concert.
According to a criminal complaint, once they arrived in the United States, the three church officials immediately took their passports away, which then pushed them to collect donations for the Children’s Joy Foundation, a non-profit run by the church that claims to help poor children in the Philippines.
The complaint also said that between 2014 to mid-2019, the church raised around $20 million, but most of the money went back into the church’s coffers and to pay for luxury goods to church leaders including a Porsche, a bulletproof Cadillac Escalade, an Armani suit and real estate.
The staff were earning little to no compensation and had to meet strict fundraising targets.
The prosecutors revealed that the top performers, known as “assets,” were then coerced into sham marriages with other members of the church, or allowed to receive visas for students to stay in the country.
Studies have said that church leaders have organized 82 such marriages in the last 20 years.
According to the lawsuit, those who failed to meet quotas faced sanctions that included paddling or being forced to spend three to five days in isolation in a walled portion of the compound while being denied food and listening to pre-registered sermons by church leaders.
One victim told investigators that church leaders “shaved her head and had her wear an orange shirt on the back with ‘ SOS ‘ meaning ‘Son of Satan,'” wrote in the criminal complaint Anne M. Wetzel, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation.
A lawyer of Quiboloy earlier said the arrest of his three church leaders in the US was part of a “grand conspiracy” by former members who wanted to humiliate them.