UNIVISION: "There is an investigation in Mexico"
Alleged victims of the leader of the Light of the World say that federal authorities in the US and Mexico interrogated them
Three people who belonged to that congregation assured Univision Noticias that Naasón Joaquín García, his closest collaborators and the financial operations of his church were part of the questions that were independently asked by federal prosecutors in Mexico and the United States.
ISAIAS ALVARADO FEB 4, 2020 - 04:40 PM EST
LOS ANGELES, California.-Before the California Attorney General's Office filed charges of child sexual abuse and human trafficking against Naasón Joaquín García, leader of the church La Luz del Mundo,officials from the Attorney General of the Republic (FGR) of Mexico They already had the congregation in their peepholeand then agents fromthe Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) began their own investigation,people who claim to have testified before both agencies told Univision News.
To date, neither the Mexican FGR nor the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) have filed charges against Joaquín García and other members of his religious institution. The only open case is the one filed by the California Prosecutor's Office in June 2019, alleging that the so-called 'Apostle of Jesus Christ' and three alleged accomplices sexually abused four women, three of whom were minors, who were members of the church in The Angels. They have pleaded not guilty.
Sources familiar with the investigations told Univision Noticias that the federal governments of both countries are interested in investigating the accusations of sexual abuse, human trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion and various financial operations of La Luz del Mundo.
Both the National Security Investigations Unit (HSI) in San Diego, an ICE unit that fights international sex trafficking and child pornography; like the Department of Justice's Southern California District, based in the same border city, would be at the forefront of inquiries being made in the United States, according to these sources.
Lauren Mack, an ICE spokeswoman in San Diego, told Univision News that HSI "has no comment on this case at the moment." Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney's office in that city, said she would not comment. Nor did the California Attorney's Office pronounce. While an official of the FGR indicated that for now she could not give more details about her investigation.
Eliezer Gutiérrez, a spokesperson for La Luz del Mundo, said they were not aware that federal prosecutors in Mexico and the United States have initiated inquiries focused on their congregation.
“With regard to Mexico, until recently we had no indication that there was anything in any public ministry or prosecutor's office. There was some situation (with) the inspection unit, but the issues are being dealt with and resolved according to law, ”said the spokesperson, who asked for time to verify if any organism of the congregation knew anything about it. Until the publication of this note, Gutiérrez did not issue another comment.
Alan Jackson, attorney for Joaquín García, did not respond to messages sent by this means.
"I told them everything": alleged victim of Naasón Joaquín
The fact that the FGR and HSI have the church in the spotlight does not necessarily mean that this would lead to criminal prosecution. Both entities would be just in the initial phase of their investigations: interviewing alleged witnesses and victims of sexual abuse, reviewing financial reports and bank accounts, as well as closely following members of the leadership of this evangelical organization.
"They are collecting information on how the institution works, victim testimonies, bank account numbers in Mexico and the United States," said a former church member who claims to have made statements at various meetings with representatives of the FGR in Mexico City. and ICE in San Diego during recent months. This person asked that her name not be published because she does not have authorization from both government agencies to speak to the press.
Francisco Espinoza, who was a member of La Luz del Mundo in the past decade when Joaquín García was a pastor at a temple in San Diego, said he, too, has already spoken to ICE agents and a DOJ prosecutor in Southern California. Espinoza alleges that on one occasion in 2011 the 'Apostle of Jesus Christ' masturbated in front of him when he confessed how he had touched his girlfriend's breasts.
“I told ICE agents that Naasón had masturbated in front of me. I told them everything, ” Espinoza assured Univision Noticias. He began making anonymous complaints against La Luz del Mundo in videos he posted on social networks covering his face. For the first time, he allows a medium to reveal his identity.
“ICE is interested in human trafficking, in sexual abuse; They want to find people who speak (…) They asked me if I knew victims who are willing to help bring criminals to justice, ”said Espinoza, who says he spoke with ICE officials in late 2019.
According to this man, his separate communication with a federal prosecutor in San Diego has been constant since October. “The Prosecutor's Office wants to strengthen the case and asked me if he needed me as a witness he could go (to court). So they can see (the juries) that Naasón has done this for a long time. ”
He assured that he also spoke with the US authorities about the death threats he has received, especially through Facebook, since he dared to speak out against the "abuses" of the church. Once someone called him on the phone to warn him "I was digging my own grave." On another occasion they were more direct: "That they were going to kill me, that I was going to regret it."
"There is an investigation in Mexico"
According to the account of a former minister of La Luz del Mundo who agreed to speak to Univision Noticias on the condition of not publishing his identity, he has also seen officials of the Attorney General's Office of the Republic. The first time in the border municipality of Tijuana and then to sign his written "complaint" in Mexico City. He said he is also one of the witnesses for the California Attorney General's Office.
“Yes, there is an investigation in Mexico, on various aspects. The first is of sexual abuse with the current leader (Naasón Joaquín). Another focus is the financial aspect (...) I spoke about four or five hours with three agents (from the FGR) in Tijuana, a month later I went to ratify my complaint. It was before the arrest ”of Joaquín García at the Los Angeles airport on June 3, 2019, said this former minister.
This person says he is willing to testify in a Mexican court if requested by the FGR and that, if the California Attorney General also does, he would testify in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Another source assured that the FGR official who has taken this case "is very interested in helping victims" and mentioned that his focus is "sexual abuse by Naasón and all the leadership: council of bishops, pastors and the pastors' wives; They also investigate money laundering, the money that goes into the church. ”
While in the United States the magnifying glass is on "human trafficking, sexual abuse of children and adults, tax evasion and money laundering in San Diego, as well as in Texas and Los Angeles." He explained that they are also interested in confirming whether some members of this religious organization fraudulently obtained US citizenship.
The next hearing in this case was scheduled for this February 13 in the Los Angeles Court. A few days ago, the California Attorney General's office highlighted in a motion that identified more victims and now has new evidence against the religious leader, including a text message in which he spoke about drugging girls so that they did not know what It had happened to them.
"The excessive amount of evidence (...) shows that the accused García, in fact, used his position in the church to satisfy with girls his apparent insatiable sexual appetite," the court document obtained by Univision quotes. Prosecutors said they plan to press more charges against Naasón Joaquín.
The top leader of La Luz del Mundo has been detained for eight months in a Los Angeles jail.
Article Courtesy of Univision and Isaias Alvarado - Originally in Spanish, translation courtesy of Google Translate