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 indictment, returned last week by a grand jury in Los Angeles, expands a case originally brought in 2020 against three officials from the Davao, Philippines-based church, called The Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name.
The original indictment accused the church and its leader — unnamed in the document — of forcing its followers to raise money by begging on U.S. streets, perpetrating immigration fraud to ensure the solicitors could remain in the country, and funneling the “donations” to the Philippines, where the church’s leader was said to drive a Bentley, Mercedes and bulletproof Cadillac and be building a stadium.
The new indictment, while expanding upon the charges of parishioners coerced into soliciting donations on the street, directly accuses its leader, Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, of trafficking minors and young women for sex.
Quiboloy and other church administrators recruited “pastorals” — girls and women who ranged in age from 12 to 25 — to act as his personal assistants: cooking his meals, cleaning his homes and traveling with him to the United States. The pastorals were also required, according to the indictment, to perform what was called “night duty” — having sex with Quiboloy, which the girls and young women were told was “God’s will.”
In the indictment, prosecutors identified several underage victims — ages 14, 15, 17 — whom church officials allegedly directed to have sex with Quiboloy. He and other church leaders told the pastorals to write “commitment letters” that pledged their lives and bodies to Quiboloy, who is known to his followers as “The Appointed Son of God,” the indictment says.
While having sex with one pastoral in 2008, Quiboloy told her it was “the Father’s will” and “the Father was happy over what the Son was doing,” the indictment says.
The girls and young women who acquiesced were rewarded with trips to Disneyland and other tourist destinations, flights on private jets, cellphones and payments that church officials described as “honorariums” — benefits funded with the donations solicited by parishioners in the United States, prosecutors say.
Those who resisted were threatened with “eternal damnation” and subjected to harassment, threats and baseless allegations of criminality, according to the indictment. Prosecutors charge that Quiboloy directed a church employee to falsely accuse a woman of sexual assault after she left the church; Quiboloy had allegedly raped the woman 10 years earlier when she was 17. And in a sermon broadcast to his followers, Quiboloy accused former pastorals of engaging in cybersex and stealing church property, the indictment charges.
It could not immediately be determined whether Quiboloy, who lives primarily in Davao City but has kept residences in Calabasas, Las Vegas and Kapolei, Hawaii, had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf. A lawyer who represented the church in the Philippines previously said that U.S. authorities were hoodwinked by embittered former members of the church, who lied to FBI agents and prosecutors in a bid to drag the church and its leader “into a quagmire of shame, blatant humiliation and defeat.”
The indictment also describes how Quiboloy and other administrators used the church as a vehicle to raise money by imposing daily quotas on parishioners who solicited “donations” in the United States. These followers — described within the church as “Full Time Miracle Workers” — told immigration authorities that they were traveling to the United States to perform in church concerts. In truth, the indictment says, they were little more than beggars, soliciting on the street "nearly every day, year-round, working very long hours and often sleeping in cars overnight, without normal access to over-the-counter medicine, and, at times, sufficient clothing.”
Church officials confiscated passports and other immigration documents belonging to the “Full Time Miracle Workers,” who typically slept at a compound on Vanowen Street in Van Nuys or other church facilities. The solicitors were subjected to daily quotas; because expenses for food, lodging or medical needs were deducted from the quotas, many skipped meals or slept in their cars.
Church administrators arranged sham marriages and secured phony student visas that allowed the “Full Time Miracle Workers” to apply for lawful residency or citizenship, ensuring they could remain in the country and continue collecting money, the indictment says.
The solicitors told the public any donations would go to poor Filipino children. In truth, prosecutors charge, church officials deposited the cash in increments under $10,000 to evade reporting requirements and wired the money to the Philippines, where it was used to fund Quiboloy’s opulent lifestyle and finance the construction of a sports stadium, the “KJC King Dome.” Church officials also used the “donations” to pay the $13,830-a-month mortgage on a Calabasas mansion, prosecutors charge. At other times, administrators smuggled cash to the Philippines by flying it in bulk on private jets or directing church workers to hide increments of $9,000 in pairs of socks, which they carried on commercial flights, according to the indictment.
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.
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.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.