THREE FILIPINO church leaders working in the United States on behalf of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name (or KOJC), were charged this week by a federal grand jury in California with overseeing a long-running scheme that forced followers to solicit donations for a bogus charity.
The one-count indictment returned by the grand jury on Wednesday, February 12 alleged that Guia Cabactulan, 59; Marissa Duenas, 41; and Amanda Estopare, 48 conspired to commit a series of offenses, which includes trafficking, forced labor, document servitude, immigration fraud and marriage fraud.
The three KOJC administrators were arrested last month by FBI agents after KOJC’s offices were raided in Van Nuys, Glendale and Los Angeles. Estopare was arrested in Virginia, where the church has a branch in Virginia Beach.
The three reportedly used a children’s foundation as a front to bring in its members from the Philippines and forced them to work as “volunteers” to raise money to aid Filipino children. However, the money went to church operations instead, as well as to fund KOJC founder Apollo Quiboloy Quiboloy’s lavish lifestyle.
“Other KOJC workers were unaware of the actual purpose until they were forced to solicit on the streets nearly every day, year-round, working very long hours, and often sleeping in cars overnight, without normal access to over-the-counter medicine or even clothes,” the 17-page indictment said.
About $20 million was sent back to the church in the Philippines from 2014 to mid-2019, according to the FBI.
“Most of these funds appear to derive from street-level solicitation,” the January affidavit read, adding “little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children.”
Cabactulan was believed to be the top KOJC official in the U.S. who maintained direct communication with church leaders in the Philippines, while Duenas allegedly handled the forged immigration documents for the workers and Estopare managed the finances and oversaw fundraising quotas for workers, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California said.
They also employed several illicit mechanisms like sham marriages and phony enrollments in schools to keep the members in the country.
According to the indictment, around 72 Philippine passports, seven U.S. passports and one Ukrainian passport, as well as wedding rings, were found by authorities when they raided the KOJC compound in Van Nuys.
The search also revealed that Duenas possessed a file titled “Traitor” that contained information on KOJC members who fled the church.
The three leaders, who were arrested on January 29, remain in federal custody. They are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on February 20 in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The FBI has established a toll-free phone number for potential victims or anyone with information about KOJC activities to provide information. The information line is 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324), and it will be staffed by English- and Tagalog-speaking personnel.
(With reports from the Associated Press)