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Crime LA church leaders charged with marriage, immigration fraud

10:10  14 february  2020
10:10  14 february  2020 Source:   msn.com

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LOS ANGELES — Federal agents raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles Wednesday in a human trafficking investigation that led to arrests of The local leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church was arrested on immigration fraud charges in the early morning bust along with a worker

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal agents raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles Wednesday in a human trafficking investigation that The local leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church was arrested on immigration fraud charges in the early morning bust along with a worker

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, file photo, crime scene tape is seen closing off an area around the grounds of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles. Three officials with the Philippines-based church 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. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)© Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, file photo, crime scene tape is seen closing off an area around the grounds of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles. Three officials with the Philippines-based church 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. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

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.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal agents raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles Wednesday in a human trafficking investigation that The local leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church was arrested on immigration fraud charges in the early morning bust along with a worker

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal agents raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles Wednesday in a human trafficking investigation that The local leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church was arrested on immigration fraud charges in the early morning bust along with a worker

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.

A magistrate judge had ordered all three women detained after their arrests last month. Attorneys for Cabactulan and Duenas didn’t immediately respond to requests from the Times for comment. It was unclear from court records if Estopare had retained a lawyer.

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The FBI raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles to arrest leaders of an alleged immigration fraud scheme that resulted in sham Investigators documented 82 sham marriages over a 20-year period between top fundraisers and church members who were U.S. citizens.

The FBI raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles to arrest leaders of an alleged immigration fraud scheme that resulted in Guia Cabactulan, 59, the top church official in the U.S., was arrested in Van Nuys with Marissa Duenas, 41, who allegedly handled fraudulent immigration

Israelito Torreon, an attorney for the church in the Philippines, previously denied all accusations. Torreon 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.”

Quiboloy was neither charged nor identified by name in court documents; prosecutors and agents have referred only to the church’s “leader,” the Times said.

Workers who say they managed to escape from the church told the FBI that they had been sent across the U.S. to work long hours soliciting donations for the church’s charity and were beaten and psychologically abused if they didn't make daily quotas, according to an affidavit filed last month in support of the charges. Some described having to live in cars at truck stops.

The immigrants essentially became full-time workers, sometimes referred to as “miracle workers,” in a crusade to raise money for the nonprofit Children’s Joy Foundation USA, which was supposed to benefit poor children in their homeland. But the complaint said most of the money raised was used to finance church operations and fund the leaders' lavish lifestyles.

The church claims a membership of 6 million people and backed the 2016 candidacy of President Rodrigo Duterte, a close friend of Quiboloy.

Between 2014 and the middle of last year, $20 million was sent to the church in the Philippines, the FBI said.

Investigators documented 82 sham marriages over a 20-year period between top fundraisers and church members who were U.S. citizens.

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