FBI arrests 3 members of Phl-based church for fundraising, immigration fraud
Marje Pelayo • January 30, 2020 • 684
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.
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)
The suspected gunman in the Dayton, Ohio, weekend shooting that killed nine people was exploring violent ideologies but it was unclear whether that influenced his actions, an FBI agent said on Tuesday (August 6).
“We have uncovered evidence that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies,” FBI agent Todd Wickerham told reporters.
He said authorities were working to determine whether the attacker was influenced by a particular ideology and whether he was helped by anyone.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday proposed a “red flag” law that would take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others, responding to pressure for him to “do something” after the mass shooting in Dayton. (REUTERS)
BANGKOK, Thailand – Three Filipinas were arrested by Thai authorities on Wednesday (January 16) for soliciting funds from tourists for an alleged children’s charity.
The three Filipinas, identified as Belinda Austria Toledo (55); Jessica Bayutas Ortega (50); and Ruthie Espina Babila (38) were arrested at a restaurant in Phettrakul, Bang Lamung District.
They claimed to represent a charity group named Children’s Joy Foundation.
Authorities recovered from the trio two boxes of donation leaflets, 10 booklets of donors’ names, a guitar, and ฿5,690 baht (P9,300) cash among other items.
Police report revealed that one of the three women would draw the attention of tourists by playing the guitar while the other two would talk to potential donors to ask money for the purported children’s foundation.
The trio confessed that they have been doing such activity for almost a year now, not only in Pattaya but in different areas across Thailand.
The Bangkok Post cited Police Colonel Apichai Krobphet, chief of Pattaya city police, as saying that the three entered Thailand on a tourist visa and they did not have permit to conduct such fund-raising activities.
Thai police also found out that the foundation the trio allegedly represent does not exist or does not have an office in the country.
Meanwhile, similar activities were also reported in other countries like Hawaii, Chicago in the US, Canada, Japan and as far as Brazil, of individuals allegedly representing the same Children’s Joy Foundation.
A website www.childrensjoyfoundation.org leads the foundation’s main office to KJC Compound, Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway Catitipan, Davao City, a property owned by Filipino religious leader Apollo Quiboloy.
Quiboloy is also introduced as the founder of Children’s Joy Foundation.
The UNTV News and Rescue Team tried to reach the group of Quiboloy for comments on the arrest of the three women in Thailand.
However, according the group’s lawyer Atty. Isaraelito Torreon, they had not received the details of the arrest but vowed to issue an official statement as soon as they have assessed the situation.
Meanwhile, Consul General Val Roque of the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok assured in a statement that the trio will be provided with consular assistance in line with the case.
‘“Philippine Consular Officers visit or contact these kababayans to offer consular assistance, consistent with international practice,” Roque said.
The Philippine Embassy calls on Filipinos in Thailand to refrain from doing such illegal practices that violate Thai law and damage the image of Filipinos in Thailand. — Marje Pelayo (with reports from Charizze Joy Longboen)
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