Thursday, January 30, 2020

FBI raids Quiboloy's church in LA, arrests 3 leaders in immigrant trafficking scam

The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the church of evangelist Apollo Quiboloy in Los Angeles that led to the arrests of three church administrators who allegedly trafficked followers as part of a six-year fundraising scam. Federal agents raided the Kingdom of Christ Church in a human trafficking investigation Wednesday morning, the reports of the CBS Los Angeles and the ABC News said.

The bust led to the arrests of local church leader Guia Cabactulan and Marissa Duenas, who allegedly handled fraudulent immigration documents, in Van Nuys. Amanda Estopare, who allegedly handled fundraising quotas, was arrested by FBI agents in Virginia. "Three people we took into custody today are being held for their roles in the immigration fraud. So we believe they are, in some cases, taking passports away from individuals that are coming into United States from the Philippines," said FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller in a television interview with CBS Los Angeles. According to the reports, immigrants who escaped from the church told federal agents that they had been sent across the United States to solicit donations year-round for the church’s charity and were physically and psychologically abused if they did not meet the quota. The money raised for the Children’s Joy Foundation USA was supposed to benefit poor people but the workers, in the complaint, said most of the money was used to finance the operations of the church and the luxurious lifestyle of Quiboloy.

"They (respondents) are forcing these individuals, in some cases, to work all day, to solicit funds for what they are saying are for impoverished children in the Philippines but in reality we believe that the money is going to fund the lavish lifestyles of the leaders of this scheme," Eimiller said.  Federal investigators said $20 million was sent back to the church in the Philippines between 2015 and mid-2019.

Son of god?
Quiboloy—who proclaimed himself as the “Appointed Son of God—has been friends with President Rodrigo Duterte for more than 30 years. In October 2019, he claimed he stopped a major earthquake in Mindanao. His mega-church claims to have six million followers all over the world.

In 2018, Felina Salinas, leader of the church’s Hawaii branch was arrested for smuggling a cash onto a private plane in Honolulu. Quiboloy, who was also on board, was briefly detained. Federal investigators found $350,000 in cash and gun parts inside the private plane bound for the Philippines.

Hawaii News Now reported in October 2018 that Kristina Angeles, a former member of the church, accused Quiboloy of running a “child sex ring.”