MANILA, Philippines — A co-defendant of Apollo Quiboloy, a close friend and spiritual advisor to President Rodrigo Duterte, has agreed to cooperate with US federal authorities to prosecute him in his sex trafficking case in the United States, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
Maria de Leon, 73, admitted to federal prosecutors that she handled fraudulent documents for members of the Quiboloy religious sect called “Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC), The Name Above Every Name,” the DOJ’s U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central said the District of California in an April 1 statement.
The false immigration papers allowed young women into the United States who were allegedly tricked into soliciting donations for Quiboloy’s ‘fake’ foundation and forced to have sex with him, the report said. DOJ.
He said De Leon, a Los Angeles-based paralegal, admitted to participating in the violation of U.S. immigration laws in a plea bargain agreement, which was filed in U.S. District Court on Friday (Saturday). Manila).
He said De Leon, a resident of Koreatown in Los Angeles and owner of Liberty Legal Document Services, confessed that she provided fake travel documents to KOJC members for about eight years in collusion with cult leaders. founded by Quiboloy.
Fake marriages, visas
Fraudulent immigration documents were allegedly used for KOJC members’ fake marriages and visas to validate their stay in the United States.
“In addition to pleading guilty, De Leon has agreed to cooperate with the government case,” the DOJ said, without giving details about what she might do to help build or strengthen the case against Quiboloy and d. ‘others.
The US Department of Justice said federal court will soon schedule a hearing for De Leon to formally discuss his guilty plea.
“Once she pleads guilty, De Leon will face a maximum statutory sentence of five years in federal prison,” he said.
Ferdinand Topacio, Quiboloy’s lawyer, said De Leon’s decision to plead guilty will have no legal effect on the case against his client, stressing that “any confession only binds the confessor”.
He also clarified that De Leon was not a member of the cult and had no connection to KOJC and Quiboloy “officially or personally”.
“Being the act of a third party, (De Leon’s plea agreement) cannot affect Pastor Quiboloy or any other co-defendants, nor adversely affect the cases against them,” Topacio said in a statement.
Quiboloy, an eccentric televangelist who calls himself the “Designated Son of God,” and eight others were indicted in November 2021 on charges of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and sex trafficking of children.
A US federal grand jury has ruled that girls and young women were coerced into having sex with Quiboloy on pain of “eternal damnation”.
On January 31, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a wanted poster declaring Quiboloy as one of America’s most wanted alleged sex traffickers.
The FBI said Mr Duterte’s friend, who will turn 72 on April 25, is also wanted by the federal government for smuggling bulk money.
In a statement after the wanted poster was published, Quiboloy called all the charges against him lies spouted by the “devil”.
Quoting a Bible verse, he said, “If we talk about persecution and accusation, Satan has thrown everything at me. But has the diamond been shaken? Has the gold been shaken? No!” he said.
Quiboloy said he never defended himself against the charges.
“Why? If you are gold, even if you are thrown into the mud, if you are a diamond and you are thrown into the mud and sink in it, will you turn into mud yourself? No You stay gold, you stay diamond. You don’t have to prove you’re gold, you’re diamond,” he said.
Quiboloy has no wife or children, according to his loyal followers. What he has are ‘spiritual wives’, according to former church members who have filed charges against him.
The US DOJ said De Leon admitted to submitting fraudulent “alien relative applications” and related documents on behalf of KOJC members “knowing or believing that the marriages were arranged for the purpose of gaining immigration status.” favorable immigration for a spouse”.
He said De Leon knew the immigration paperwork was based on “misrepresentations” made by church officials.
She was arrested on November 18, 2021 by federal authorities. Felina Salinas and Bettina Padilla Roces were also arrested separately on the same day. They would be one of the main administrators of the KOJC which took care of the financial affairs of the sect.
Salinas, of Kapolei, Hawaii, was reportedly responsible for collecting and securing passports and other documents for KOJC workers in Hawaii, as well as sending solicited funds in Hawaii to cult officials in the Philippines.
Three of their co-defendants – Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas and Amanda Estopare – were arrested in 2020.
According to the US DOJ, Quiboloy and the others were behind a “labour trafficking scheme” that brought KOJC members to the United States to collect donations for the Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF ) based in Glendale, a fictional charity that cult leaders used to fund the operations of the church and the “lavish lifestyles of its leaders”.
About $20 million was returned to the sect in the Philippines from 2014 to mid-2019, according to US federal agents.
The US DOJ said members who successfully solicited were coerced into ‘sham marriages’ or obtained fraudulent student visas to gain legal status in the US so they could continue soliciting donations “, said the US DOJ.
“Many workers were moved across the United States to solicit donations as ‘CJF volunteers’, also known as ‘full-time miracle workers,'” he added, citing the documents from ‘charge.
He said cult members seek donations for KOJC “almost every day, year-round, working very long hours and often sleeping in cars at night.”
The FBI is asking those who may have been victims of KOJC’s trafficking program or who may have information about its criminal activities as part of its ongoing investigation.
—WITH REPORTS BY CATHRINE GONZALES AND INVESTIGATOR RESEARCH
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