UNIVISION: The Light of the World leaders have a ranch in Texas
The Light of the World leaders have a ranch in Texas valued at $ 4.1 million, with a zoo and artificial lake
ISAIAS ALVARADO AUG 12, 2019 - 09:11 AM EDT
Samuel Joaquín Flores,who until his death in 2014 was the top leader of the Evangelical church La Luz del Mundo and whose son is being accused of sexual abuse in California,built an earthly paradise 46 miles east of San Antonio, Texas surrounded by exotic animals, collectible cars and a luxurious mansion in front of an artificial lake where he used to vacation with his family.
The eccentric style of this property valued by authorities at $ 4.1 million has been described as a combination of the Hacienda Napoles by drug trafficker Pablo Escobar in Colombia and the Neverland Ranch in California by singer Michael Jackson.
The 343-acre farm that still belongs to the Joaquín family is called 'Silver Wolf Ranch' and is in the Seguin community. It is located on the side of Interstate 10, so anyone who passes by can easily see what is inside: buffalo, horses, deer and other animals that are part of a public zoo that is within the extensive terrain, managed by a non-profit organization created by this Mexican family who they accuse of having amassed their fortune thanks to religion.
Currently, the ranch is divided into two parts: a public area where there is also an equestrian center, a theme park, areas for raising and feeding exotic animals, as well as an automotive museum; and another private one, where is the Joaquín mansion and the artificial lake. Only this family can enter there.
In fact, Samuel Joaquín Flores continues to appear in Guadalupe County public records as the sole owner of the 7.9-acre private residence that sits in the center of the sprawling lot and has two towering white domes seen from afar. That mansion has been valued at $ 1.8 million, 240% more than the estimated price in 2006, when construction began.
"It is a huge ranch, huge; it has several acres," says Todd Bensman, who as a journalist for the San Antonio Express-News newspaper discovered in 2008 the millionaire investment by Samuel Joaquín Flores.
His curiosity led him to investigate for several months this place that caught everyone's attention, but at that time no one knew who the owner was. By then, several exotic animals grazing freely could be seen through the fence, although access was restricted.
According to Bensman's account, the neighbors themselves believed that the place belonged to some Mexican drug trafficker, and even the local Sheriff had been watching their surroundings for a time. But no illicit activity related to that site was ever confirmed.
"The value of the property when they built the house went up to millions of dollars. They clearly put in a tremendous investment," Bensman explained in an interview with Univision News.
"There were buffaloes, tigers, lions, bears, zebras. When I entered, the children were walking a bear cub with a laso. They had many horses cared for by equestrian professionals and there was a horse racing track. There was even a small planes that allowed them to get directly to the property, "he explained.
The farm also has a section that emulates the Old West, which is next to the Joaquín's luxurious rest house and facing the lake. There is a false jail there, a hall and a party area. Behind some facades there are guest condos.
Across the ranch is a garage that displays cars that this family collects.
The lot where the "cowboy" theme park is located is valued at almost $ 270,000 and the space where the vehicles are displayed at more than $ 720,000. Both parcels add up to 5.5 acres of the entire property.
"The section that recreates the Old West was like a private fantasy land for the family's children," said Bensman, who describes it as "another Neverland." The rest of the land reminded the Hacienda Nápoles of the founder of the Medellín cartel. "I would say it was exactly like this," he compared.
Who is now a researcher and writer for the Center for Immigrant Studies organization relates that the arrival of luxury trucks with dark glass and the presence of several immigrants (faithful from La Luz del Mundo who used to come to clean and care for the animals without charging a fee). cent) increased the fear of the locals.
"The neighboring ranchers did not like that property, what was going on inside, nor its secrecy. They believed they were drug traffickers," he warned. "They also thought there was human trafficking there."
The zoo that pays $ 112,000 in rent to the Joaquín family
Before opening to the public, the ranch was surrounded by mysteries and not much has changed since then. Although it has been operating for several years, it does not have a website, or even a Facebook site that helps them promote themselves at no cost as an attraction for Texans.
Only a couple of photos and videos that some of its visitors have published over the years can be seen on social networks. In Yelp name appears ranch, but indicates that no one has claimed this business in the platform owner.
The zoo, which has been operating since 2002, "has an active license," said R. Andre Bell, spokesman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the federal Department of Agriculture, which oversees establishments in the country where there are animals.
The GuideStar page , which publishes the fiscal reports of the US nonprofit organizations, states that the goal of the ranch's public section is "to provide a habitat for large animals that they no longer want, are injured, or have been mistreated. " To this end they receive exotic and hunting species, but also wild and domestic animals, the portal mentions.
Forms 990 submitted to the Tax Collection Service (IRS) by the organization Wildlife Refuge and Sanctuary Silver Wolf, which manages the space open to the public there, indicate that it had an annual income of around $ 350,000 between 2015 and 2017. .
Those documents also point out that in 2017 alone, the Joaquín were paid a rent of $ 112,000 to use the ranch, more than double compared to a previous year's rate.
Its operating cost exceeded $ 416,000 in 2017 , including an expense of $ 39,000 for animal feed, another $ 11,000 for vehicle repairs and one more than $ 17,000 for the salaries of two employees (apparently working part-time), according to the reports released by GuideStar.
Cited by that portal, the organization assures that it has agreements with schools, religious institutions and non-governmental groups for children to go to its facilities and receive therapy. However, it is not revealed how many people visit it each year.
Pedro A. Ochoa, who appears in fiscal reports as president of the Wildlife Refuge and Sanctuary Silver Wolf, has not been available for an interview with Univision Noticias since he was asked in mid-June."The supervisor is gone, talk later," asked an employee before hanging up abruptly.Afterwards, no one answered the multiple calls made by this medium.
"It has nothing to do with the church"
Eliezer Gutiérrez, spokesman for La Luz del Mundo, assured that he did not know and has never visited the 'Silver Wolf Ranch'. Part of his responsibilities have been to accompany the current leader of the congregation, Naasón Joaquín García, on his evangelical tours around the world, who is detained in Los Angeles for a case of sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking, child pornography, extortion and other crimes. .
"I do not know that property, I have never been to a ranch with those characteristics, nor name," he told Univision Noticias.
After asking his "brothers in San Antonio", the spokesman acknowledged that the farm, in fact, belongs to the Joaquín family, but affirmed that it is totally separated from the evangelical institution and its finances. "The ranch has nothing to do with the church, I understand that it is private property; the church in Texas has no ties to that ranch," he said.
When questioned about the value of the property, which would destroy the arguments of the defense of Naasón who insists on denying that the pastor and his family have a fortune, as assured by the California Attorney General, Gutiérrez insisted that it is about a private matter about which you are not aware.
"How his legacy is managed (what Samuel Joaquín García inherited) is a private matter for the family," the spokesperson stressed.
The California District Attorney's Office, which accuses Naasón of having sexually abused four women from his congregation and who claimed that the pastor spent thousands of dollars at a Beverly Hills store and travels on private jets, did not comment on whether in his inquiries he had in mind the existence of the 'Silver Wolf Ranch' in Texas.
"To protect their integrity, we do not comment on ongoing investigations," the agency said in a brief statement sent to this newsroom.
A property that quadrupled in value
The origin and size of the fortune that Samuel Joaquín Flores amassed is an old question that no one has been able to answer. His detractors allege that his income, like that of his father and founder of the cult, Aarón Joaquín, came only from the tithe or alms of the members of the church. They also claim that their closeness to political power in Mexico benefited them .
The so-called 'Servant of God' was in charge of The Light of the World for 50 years, from 1964 to 2014, and never carried out any other activity. It has never been revealed what his salary was, or how much his son Naasón is now paid, who has spent five years commanding that evangelical organization based in Guadalajara. "I do not know what is the amount of support or remuneration that the church gives him," spokesman Gutiérrez answered this question.
To date, the only asset that Samuel Joaquín Flores is known to in the United States is the 'Silver Wolf Ranch', which he acquired in the late 1990s. He was still facing serious charges of child sexual abuse in his country. For some, finding that resting place between Houston and San Antonio was part of their strategy to extend the presence of their congregation in Texas and also to get away from the accusations and criticism in Mexico.
It is unclear why five years after his death he continues to appear as the sole owner of the luxurious residence within the estate in Seguin.
His eldest son Benjamin Joaquin, who has been a pastor of The Light of the World in Texas for many years and was once considered his successor, is the owner or executor of most of the 'Silver Wolf Ranch', along with other unidentified people. in the Guadalupe County Database. It should be noted that the legal term "et al" appears in the property title, which means "all others".
A source within the congregation assured this outlet that the term "all others" was added to the document, supposedly to include his younger brothers, among whom would be Naasón.
In this Joaquín land are the public zoo, the Old West section, an equestrian center, an area of grassland for exotic animals and an area for the breeding of these. Another adjacent plot with a different address, in which the collection cars are exhibited, also belongs to Benjamín Joaquín.
The total value of the ranch's 343 acres nearly quadrupled from $ 1.1 million in 2003 to $ 4.1 million this year.
The luxurious refuge of this family, located 40 minutes by car from San Antonio, did not receive a single visitor for several years and was their private place of recreation. This was recognized by the lawyer María Elena Castillo, who has been the family's legal advisor in Seguin, to the San Antonio Express-News newspaper in 2008. It was not possible to locate her to add her comments in this report.
"She told me that the family was coming, that there were family gatherings and that they used it as a private resting place," said Bensman, who was a reporter for that newspaper at the time of writing on the subject.
In those years, while making the promise that "very soon" they would allow the public to see their exotic animals, the sons and grandsons of Samuel Joaquín Flores rode horses among buffalo and tigers.
Article courtesy of Univision and Isaias Alvarado - originally in Spanish, translated courtesy of Google Translate.