CALIFORNIA, USA — A federal grand jury has charged three top officials of a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles for overseeing a scheme that forced followers into becoming fundraisers for a bogus charity.
They are 59-year-old Guia Cabactulan, the top administrator of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in the US; 41-year-old Marissa Duenas who managed processing of immigration documents and acted as the head of human resources; and 48-yeard-old Amanda Estopare who set quota for fundraisers and the one who funneled money to the church leader Apollo Quiboloy in the Philippines.
The three accused were arrested by Federal agents in separate raids last month.
They were charged on Thursday (February 13) for conspiring to commit forced labor or human trafficking, document servitude, and immigration and marriage frauds, all for a scheme of soliciting funds for a bogus group Childrens’ Joy Foundation.
“A lot of the money doesn’t go to the children, only a very very small percentage goes and even when the money does go to the children it’s a whole separate goal,” a former member of the church who coordinated with UNTV News but requested anonymity said.
“It is true with everything that’s being tossed around now in the media, yes. They do have quotas,” he added.
Based on Federal investigation, the church has collected US $20 million from 2014 to 2019, the majority of which goes to fund Quiboloy’s extravagant lifestyle.
Among the properties mentioned in the FBI report include a Bentley, a bullet-proof Escalade, Armani Suit and expensive estates including a mansion in Calabasas, California.
Meanwhile, a former church worker confessed that members are not only abused because of not hitting a quota but also for going beyond Quiboloy’s rules.
“Depending on that the severity of your case then determines how many paddles you get,” the former church worker said.
“I’ve seen the hundred, it’s not pretty because you’re laying down and then 100 paddles would hit you strongly like a full swing. Then after it would take about like to three weeks for your butt to heal because it’s purple,” he added.
Quiboloy denied the allegations arguing that those were just the works of the people who wanted to destroy the “church”.
But the FBI said the arrest was a result of a decade-long investigation on the group’s illegal activities in Los Angeles and Hawaii as well as in other states in the US. – MNP (with inputs from Sonny Cos)
LOS ANGELES, USA — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday (January 29) arrested the top three members of a Philippine-based church for charges of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.
A federal complaint alleged that Guia Cabactulan, 59, the top Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) official in the US; Marissa Duenas, 41; and Amanda Estopare, 48 of the KOJC facilitated the entry of church members to the United States to work as fundraisers for a church-owned charity while only carrying tourist visas.
Federal authorities arrested Cabactulan and Duenas at the KOJC compound in Van Nuys, California, while Estopare was nabbed in Virginia.
The complaint alleged that the three obtained visas for church members in the guise of performing in musical events, but once they arrived in the US, they were forced to surrender their passports and work long hours as “miracle workers” to solicit funds for Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF).
The said ‘miracle workers’ would tell donors that their money would support impoverished children in the Philippines but according to the complaint, the money raised was used to finance the operations of KOJC and the lavish lifestyle of its leaders.
“KOJC and CJF advertise that the solicited money will be used to aid Filipino children; however, little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children,” according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Anne Wetzel.
Also, the complaint accused the defendants of arranging sham marriages and other illegal mechanisms for members to stay in the US and continue soliciting donations, and then threatened them of facing consequences should they fail to meet quota.
“KOJC workers often slept in cars overnight, parked at truck stops. For those KOJC workers who proved to be good at soliciting money, KOJC administrators, including CABACTULAN, DUENAS, and ESTOPARE, would force them into sham marriages so they could stay in the United States and continue soliciting,” Wetzel said.
According to the FBI, the church’s bank records show that KOJC accounts received approximately $20 million in cash deposits from 2014 through mid-2019.
Following the arrest on Wednesday morning, the FBI executed search warrants at KOJC and CJF offices in Van Nuys, Glendale, and three other locations in Los Angeles, as well as in two locations linked to KOJC in Hawaii.
According to the Federal Law, the charge of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
MANILA, Philippines – Rights abuse victims during the Marcos regime were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief when President Rodrigo Duterte approved to extend the distribution of claims until the end of the year.
According to the group, Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensuon at Aresto (SELDA), around P234 million from the P10 billion total amount of reparation pay are yet to be claimed by around 170 recognized claimants.
“Ang mga grantee noon (ay) may mga kulang pa talagang mga documents daw so hinabol ng iba iyong mga kulang ng documents,” explained SELDA’s National Coordinator Danny dela Fuente.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is now planning the process and finalizing the timeline for the distribution of the remaining claims.
Apart from this, the rights group said the 7,500 Martial law victims who were among those who filed a class action lawsuit in Hawaii may still be able to receive an additional amount from so called ‘ill-gotten wealth’ of the Marcoses deposited in the island state.
SELDA noted that each recognized claimant might receive P75,000 each from the US$13.75 million dollar earned from the auctioned paintings of the Marcoses.
This would be possible if the court will rule in favor of their petition expected to be announced in March.
It can be noted that the complainants were given an initial amount when the Hawaii court ruled in their favor against the Marcoses in the Hawaii case.
“Ang tawag ngayon doon (ay) Marcos estate, iyong inihabla namin sa Hawaii. Nagkaroon nga ng favorable decision ang court of US federal district of Hawaii na kami ay ma-award ng $1.9B. Walang panggagalingan iyon kundi ang kanilang ill-gotten wealth,” dela Fuente concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
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