FBI arrests 3 members of Phl-based church for fundraising, immigration fraud
Marje Pelayo • January 30, 2020 • 1301
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.
USA – A Hawaiian court sentenced Felina Salinas, the manager of Apollo Quiboloy’s church in the island state, to 30 days in prison for lying about a suitcase that contained hidden $350,000 cash found in the pastor’s private jet back in 2018.
Aside from imprisonment, Salinas would also pay a $500 fine, according to the Hawaii-based Hawaii News Now.
In 2018, Salinas attempted to fly with Quboloy on a private jet claiming to Federal agents the cash was hers.
Salinas presented the currency report form but declared that she only had $40,000 and P1,000.
Authorities, however, found $335,000 US dollars inside the bag and a total of 9,000 Australian dollars hidden in socks.
The video conferencing app, Zoom, has announced they are already addressing the privacy and security issues raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to ‘Zoombombing’ reports.
In a statement, Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan said the company acknowledges the reports of users regarding privacy issues, saying these reports would help make the company better for its customers.
“Dedicated journalists and security researchers have also helped to identify pre-existing ones. We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting – about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies,” he said.
The FBI said they received several reports in the United States that there has been an incident of ‘Zoombombing’ or video conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.
“Our chief concern, now and always, is making users happy and ensuring that the safety, privacy, and security of our platform is worthy of the trust you all have put in us,” Yuan said. AAC
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)
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