By BIN, The Wires | 09:51 AM November 19, 2021
Federal authorities have charged the leader of a Philippines-based church with trafficking girls and young women for sex and overseeing a scheme that deployed scores of his followers to the United States, where, under duress, they solicited donations that financed his rich lifestyle, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.
The Washington Post reported that U.S. authorities have charged Apollo Quiboloy, the charismatic leader of the Philippines-based megachurch the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name and eight other church officials on suspicion of running a sex trafficking ring.
The Los Angeles Times reported that
charged alongside Quiboloy are Teresita Tolibas Dandan, the church’s international administrator; Helen Panilag, who oversaw the church’s international finances; Felina Salinas, the church’s administrator in Hawaii; Guia Cabactulan, who supervised the church’s operations in the United States; Marissa Duenas, the church’s “human resources leader”; and Amanda Estopare and Betina Padilla Roces, described as overseeing the church’s fraudulent fundraising efforts and ensuring the money flowed to church leaders in the Philippines.
Salinas, 50, and Roces, 48, were arrested Thursday, authorities said. Cabactulan, 61, Duenas, 43, and Estopare, 50, were charged in the original indictment; they have pleaded not guilty, The Los Angeles added.
Also named in the new indictment was Maria De Leon, a paralegal and notary who owned a Los Angeles-based company, Liberty Legal Document Services, that allegedly processed the fraudulent marriage certificates and immigration paperwork that allowed church workers to remain in the United States.
De Leon, 72, was arrested Thursday at her home in Koreatown, authorities said. The other defendants are not in U.S. custody.
The Court House News Service said that
according to the just unsealed indictment issued Nov. 10, Quiboloy and at least two other church administrators recruited young women “typically between the ages of 12 and 25” to serve as “pastorals,” preparing meals for, cleaning and massaging Quiboloy. The church leaders also forced pastorals to have sex with Quiboloy in an activity they dubbed “night duty.” Some of the women who performed “night duty” were under 18 and did so “under the threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation.” Those who hesitated were told they “had the devil in them.”
Quiboloy and other church administrators told the pastorals “that performing night duty was ‘God’s will’ and a privilege, as well as a necessary demonstration of the pastoral’s commitment to give her body to defendant Quiboloy as ‘The Appointed Son of God,’” according to the indictment. Pastorals who satisfied Quiboloy were rewarded with money, use of a cellphone, rides on private jets and trips to Disneyland.
According to the indictment, Quiboloy told one victim “that the sex acts were in the Father’s will and that the Father was happy over what the Son was doing.” It charges Quiboloy with having sex with 15-year-old in 2002, a 17-year-old in 2005 and 14-year-old in 2011. In Los Angeles, after seeing one of his victims speaking to another man, he hit and slapped her, then ordered her to go solicit money on behalf of the church.
The new indictment builds on charges issued last year, in which three church leaders in the United States were arrested for bringing members into the country illegally, taking away their passports and pressing them into service soliciting money for a church-run nonprofit. Church workers in the U.S. arranged at least 82 sham marriages to buttress the workers’ immigration status. These “full-time miracle workers,” as they were known, fundraised for the church “nearly every day, year-round, working very long hours, and often sleeping in cars overnight,” according to the new indictment.
The workers told people they were raising money for impoverished Filipino children. In actually, the money went to fund church operations, as well as the church officials’ “lavish lifestyle.”
The Kingdom of Jesus Christ claims to have 6 million members in roughly 200 countries. It owns property throughout the U.S., including offices and residences in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Hawaii. It owns a television station, two newspapers and 17 radio stations throughout the Philippines. It is currently constructing the KJC King Dome in Davao City, which at 75,000 seats will make it the largest indoor-seating arena in the world.
The 71-year-old Quiboloy, founder of the church, is reportedly good friends with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. A major contributor to Duterte’s 2016 campaign, Quilboloy even lent the then-candidate his private jet. He has called himself “the appointed son of God” and “the owner of the universe.”
Authorities arrested three of newly charged defendants Thursday in Los Angeles and Hawaii; three had been charged in the original indictment. The other three, including Quiboloy live in Davao City, the third most populous city in the Philippines.
The 42 charges leveled at the nine defendants include sex trafficking, trafficking with respect to forced labor, money laundering, bulk cash smuggling and various conspiracy charges. The sex trafficking conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum of life in federal prison.
The Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name has no official statement yet.
Emails send to the church and its nonprofit requesting an interview went unanswered as of press time.