Three Filipino church leaders based in the United States were arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on Wednesday, January 29, for allegedly trafficking its members from the Philippines as part of a six-year fundraising scam.
Guia Cabactulan, 59; Marissa Duenas, 41; and Amanda Estopare, 48 are members of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name (or KOJC).
According to the FBI, the three allegedly used a children’s foundation as a front to bring in its members from the Philippines and use them to beg for money on the street.
They were picked up by agents in California and Virginia after KOJC’s offices were raided in Van Nuys, Glendale and Los Angeles.
KOJC, which was created by Apollo Quiboloy in 1985 in Davao, Philippines, has over six million members around the world.
In the criminal complaint, it said the church would obtain visas for its members under the pretense that they would be performing in musical events in the U.S. Afterwards, the church would take the members’ passports away, sending them to various locations across the country and forcing them to work as “volunteers” to raise money to aid Filipino children.
The FBI said the money actually went to church operations, with KOJC collecting close to $20 million from the donations between 2014 and mid-2019.
The investigators added that several illicit tactics like sham marriages and phony enrollments in schools were employed by the KOJC administrators to keep workers in the country.
The workers were also forced to live in unsafe living conditions.
“KOJC workers often slept in their car overnight, parked at truck stops, or occasionally stayed in a small hotel room during their operations,” the complaint read.
The FBI has received detailed accounts from workers who have stepped forward, showing e-mails from their administrators that contained instructions in the alleged scam.
The complaint claimed that Cabactulan held on to the workers’ passports and oversaw the operations, and Duenas falsified documents and information to immigration officials, while Estopare was in charge of the collections.
The KOJC came under scrutiny by federal investigators in the past after a Hawaii manager of KOJC was charged with smuggling cash to the Philippines using Quiloboly’s private jet.
Quiboloy himself was briefly arrested in Hawaii in 2018 after $350,000 in cash and parts to assemble a military rifle were found by federal agents in his jet.