3 Leaders of Van Nuys Church Indicted on Human Trafficking, Immigration Charges

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Federal agents raided the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in Van Nuys on Jan 29, 2020. (Credit: KTLA)

Federal agents raided the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in Van Nuys on Jan 29, 2020. (Credit: KTLA)

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When FBI agents raided the Van Nuys compound of a Philippines-based church late last month, they found 80 passports, seven wedding rings and a folder titled “Traitor” — the makings of a decade-long human trafficking conspiracy, federal prosecutors said in an indictment unsealed Thursday.

Officials with the Davao City, Phillipines-headquartered church — whose leader calls himself “The Appointed Son of God” — had lured Filipino followers to Los Angeles, where they were promised roles in church concerts, the indictment alleges.

But once the followers arrived in Southern California, their passports were confiscated and they were forced to beg and solicit donations for an organization called the Children’s Joy Foundation, which purported to help poor Filipino kids, the court documents said. Instead, funds were used to purchase Armani suits for the church’s leader and lingerie for his assistants, among other luxury purchases, according to the indictment and other documents.

Three officials with the church called Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name were charged late Wednesday with one count of conspiring to commit forced labor trafficking, servitude and immigration and marriage fraud. Guia Cabactulan 59, was the church’s top official in the United States, the indictment said. 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.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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