Church leaders have been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday following investigations pointing to the Philippines-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in Los Angeles conducting sham marriages and engaging in fraudulent immigration operations.
According to the Associated Press, federal agents arrested the L.A. local church leader, as well as a church worker who took the passports of the immigration scheme's victims. The leader, in particular, was arrested on immigration fraud charges.
The church operated fraudulent fundraising activities over the last two decades. Fundraisers who escaped the cult revealed to the FBI that they were forced to solicit donations across the country for the church's charity called The Children's Joy Foundation.
The fundraisers also said they lived in cars parked at truck stops and if they didn't reach the daily quota for the fundraising, as stated in affidavit filed to support charges against the local church leader.
FBI special agent Anne Wetzel stated in her affidavit that the funds raised "appear to derive from street-level solicitation," but that "little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children.
Furthermore, Wetzel's affidavit revealed that for two decades, the L.A. branch of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church arranged 82 sham marriages. As for the funds raised, a total of $20 million was tracked for the period of 2014 and mid-2019.
Mail Online reported that the sham marriages were arranged to keep useful workers in the United States, while the donations from solicited parties were used to support the wealthy lifestyle of church founder Apollo Quiboloy in the Philippines.
The affidavit submitted to the FBI also unveiled how immigrants assisted by the church became "miracle workers," or full-time church employees, whose solicited funds were sent to the main church in the Philippines.
48-year-old Amanda Estopare allegedly managed the L.A. church's financial matters and she also implemented quotas for daily funds. Marissa, Duenas, 41, was allegedly the one who managed the church's sham marriages and the worker who confiscated passports.
Finally, 59-year-old Guia Cabactulan, the L.A. branch's top church official, maintained close communication with the leaders of the main church in the Philippines. The three are now under the FBI's custody.
Apollo Quiboloy founded the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name, Inc. on September 1, 1985. The congregation claims to have six million "solid Kingdom citizens," as stated on their official website.
The church also claimed that it has church members scattered across 2,000 cities in 200 countries. Quiboloy is known for his luxurious lifestyle and the 8-hectare compound where the main church is headquartered.
Quiboloy has three self-proclaimed titles: Owner of the Universe, Lucifer's Conqueror, and the Appointed Son of God.