DAVAO CiTY (MindaNews / 30 January) – Rape last month. Raid this month.
Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) was sued here last month month for alleged rape, qualified trafficking and child abuse, by a former “miracle worker,” the term the KJC uses to describe those soliciting funds for the church.
On Wednesday, Quiboloy’s church in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for immigration fraud, for alleged human trafficking through sham marriages that allowed the “miracle workers” to stay in the United States and raise funds purportedly for the KJC through street-level solicitations. Three officials were arrested.
An Associated Press report published in the New York Times on January 29 cited affidavits of fundraisers – or “miracle workers” — who had earlier managed to escape from the church that they were sent across the U.S. to solicit donations for the church’s charity, The Children’s Joy Foundation, and were beaten if they didn’t make daily quotas. Some of them described having been made to live in cars at truck stops. Their passports were reportedly taken from them by a church official upon arrival in the United States.
The report said an FBI agent investigating the case documented “82 sham marriages over a 20-year period and tracked $20 million raised between 2014 and the middle of last year that was sent back to the church in the Philippines.”
“Most of these funds appear to derive from street-level solicitation,” the report said, quoting form the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Anne Wetzel. “Little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children,’ she said.
The report also said that aside from the raid at the KJC’s Van Nuys compound, FBI agents were conducting searches at other Los Angeles locations and at two places in Hawaii linked to the church.
The Daily Mail Online published a longer report on the raid, titled “FBI raids Los Angeles church that ‘arranged sham marriages for immigration fraud and used $20 million in charity donations to fund leader’s lavish lifestyle’” written by the Associated Press and Keith Griffith.
The Mail identified the three arrested officials as Guia Cabactulan, 59, described as “the top church official in the United States who maintained direct communication with leadership in the Philippines;” Marissa Duenas, 41, “who allegedly handled fraudulent immigration documents for church workers and secured the passports immediately after workers entered the U.S.;” and Amanda Estopare, 48, “who allegedly handled the financial aspects of the church enterprise, including enforcing fundraising quotas for workers.”
According to the Mail, the FBI said some US $20 million in donations ostensibly for needy children in the Philippines “was actually used to support the luxury lifestyle of church leader Apollo Quiboloy in Davao City.”
Most of the funds, it said, were raised by members who “worked in slave-like conditions soliciting donations full time, and the phony marriages were used to keep the most effective workers in the U.S.”
Quiboloy’s lawyer, Israelito Torreon, told a press conference Thursday that the Pastor was “devastated at first, saddened” about what happened in Los Angeles where 12 of his former members who were “very close” to the Pastor, issued statements that became the basis for the FBI’s filing of a criminal complaint against the three KJC leaders there.
But Torreon said they are “ready, able and willing to show and prove the innocence” of the three officials and that their lawyers in the United States will show that “this is nothing but a grand conspiracy of lies concocted by former members who struck an alliance with those who have an axe to grind” against the Pastor.
He said these former members are “into this grand conspiracy in order to put to shame Pastor Quiboloy and the kingdom.”
Torreon said their US-based lawyers will show that the three officials were “exercising their religious rights in spreading the good news to the whole world.”
“We will face these charges and will await our day in court,” he said.
He recalled that what happened in September 2019 “admittedly rocked a bit the kingdom” when “the most trusted guy” of Quiboloy, together with his entire family and a few others left the KJC.
Torreon said they suspected “a storm or sort of a volcanic eruption would be created” by their departure “but like any volcano eruption, things will subside and at the end of the day, nature will take it s course and after nature will take its course, it will be cleansed and only the truth will prevail.” Quiboloy, he added, “will still remain standing”
Last month, in a press conference following the filing of the complaint or rape, qualified trafficking and child abuse against Quiboloy and four others, Torreon said: “Please wait for our defense because we will show to all and sundry that this is part of a grand conspiracy to pin down” the Pastor.
He said they will show that the alleged rape “is not true, was not true and will never be true,”
He said Quiboloy is “very true to his mission to propagate love, the love of Jesus Chirist” and that they would work to have the cases dismissed.
“We will prove Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is innocent of all these charges,” Torreon said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MiindaNews)