Editor’s note: The story below includes details that some readers may find disturbing.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Religious leaders who were part of an international religious organization headquartered in Mexico were charged with multiple sex crimes against children.
These leaders, including Naason Joaquin Garcia (Joaquin Garcia) and his co-defendants, who are all associated with ‘La Luz Del Mundo’. Charges include human trafficking, production of child pornography, forcible rape of a minor, and other felonies. The crimes were allegedly committed between 2015 and 2018, in Southern California while Garcia was leading La Luz Del Mundo.
La Luz Del Mundo and Leaders
La Luz Del Mundo is headquartered in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and has more than one million followers worldwide. Southern California locations include San Bernardino, Ontario, Riverside, Los Angeles, Chino Hills, Pasadena, Whittier, La Puente, Palmdale, Santa Ana, Palm Springs, Perris, Huntington Park, North Hollywood, Orange, Lennox, and Pacoima.
The church has three leaders including Joaquin Gonzalez, Samuel Joaquin Flores, and Naason Joaquin Garcia. These men are considered Apostles of Jesus Christ and servants of God. Garcia has served as an Apostle since 2014. Female church members are encouraged to dress in long skirts and must wear head coverings during religious services. No dancing or clapping is allowed and women are discouraged from wearing makeup, jewelry, or wearing short hair.
The Defendants and the Arrests
Also named in the complaint are Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Melendez, and Susana Medina Oaxaca. Arrests were made on Monday, June 3, 2019, with the help of special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). All of those named in the complaint are affiliated with La Luz Del Mundo. All are behind bars besides for Azalea Rangel Melendez, who is wanted.
The Crimes (Graphic)
The complaint alleges that Garcia and his co-defendants committed multiple sex-related crimes against teen girls. According to the complaint, the girls were asked to perform flirty dances in as little clothing as possible. Ocampo told the teens to take off all of their clothing and to touch each other in sexual ways so that she could take photos to give to Garcia.
One of the female teens was ordered to remove her dress in Garcia’s office. When in the room, Garcia placed his arms around her, kissed her, touched her buttocks, and attempted to touch her vagina, the complaint says. At a later date, Garcia forced another teen to engage in sexual activity both orally and vaginally.
Ocampo told three girls to take photos without underwear on and with their legs open. At a later date she allegedly took the girls to an unknown office building provided them with school girl outfits and directed them to sexually touch themselves and each other while she took photos. Additional allegations were made, where the teen girls were forced to perform sex acts with each other for photos or with Garcia.
“The coercion of minors is unconscionable under any circumstances, but the allegations are even more disturbing when the accused, like the defendant, hold positions of public trust” said Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with our state and federal law enforcement partners to bring those who would sexually exploit children to justice. Anyone engaged in this manipulative and abusive conduct needs to know that law enforcement in the state of California has joined forces to stop them.”
The investigation began in 2018, by the California Department of Justice when information was submitted to their clergy abuse online complaint form. The complaint alleges Joaquin Garcia and his co-defendants committed 26 felonies in Southern California over a period of approximately four years. Garcia and his co-defendants coerced victims into performing sexual acts. In order to get them to perform the sex acts Alondra Ocampo would tell the girls that if they went against any of his wishes, as the “Apostle” they would be going against God.
“Crimes like those alleged in this complaint have no place in our society. Period,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We must not turn a blind eye to sexual violence and trafficking in our state. At the California Department of Justice, we will do everything we can to prevent and combat these heinous crimes so that our communities are safe. If you see something, report it and we will vigorously pursue justice.”
Bail for Garcia has been set at $25 million.
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