The leader of a Philippines-based megachurch was charged in US federal court with sex trafficking.
An indictment alleged he forced young girls to have sex with him or face “eternal damnation.”
The church’s legal team called it “another vicious attempt to bring down Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy.”
A church leader and eight top administrators were charged with organizing a sex-trafficking scheme that prosecutors allege stretched at least 16 years and forced young girls to have sex with church leaders or face “eternal damnation.”
The US Department of Justice announced the grand jury indictment, filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, on Thursday. It outlines allegations from five female victims, three of whom were minors at the time.
The court documents allege Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC), told the girls, who ranged in age from 12 to 25, that having sex with church leaders during “night duty” was “God’s will” and was a privilege.
The girls had to write “commitment letters” to Quiboloy, signing over their lives and bodies to “The Appointed Son of God,” according to the indictment.
Those who complied with night duty were rewarded with trips to Disneyland, flights on private jets, cell phone use, and money, prosecutors said.
If people tried to leave the church or refuse night duty they faced physical abuse and threats from Quiboloy, the indictment said, adding that he abused those who spoke to other men or engaged in “behavior that upset him.”
The court documents said the conspiracy carried on from 2002 to at least 2018, with some allegations dating into 2020.
The church’s legal team, KCJ Legal, released a lengthy official statement in response to the charges.
“We are confident and ready to face whatever is hurled against Pastor Quiboloy and the Kingdom leaders. We trust the process of justice and we certainly expect the truth to prevail, and the Kingdom ministry will continue to prosper,” read the statement, posted on SMNI News Channel, which the Associated Press first reported.
“People may have tried to silence Pastor Quiboloy, but they cannot put down the Kingdom nation,” the statement continued. “They will never detract from the mission and the ministry of The Kingdom. It will never stop. It will go on forever.”
According to the statement, Quiboloy nor the other officials have answered the charges.
Quiboloy is believed to be in the Philippines with two other church members and three of the other church members charged were arrested, the DOJ said on Thursday.
The church didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Monday.
Labor trafficking and money laundering charges
The defendants are also charged with participating in a labor trafficking scheme that prosecutors say brought members of the church — known as “Full Time Miracle Workers” — to the United States using fraudulent visas.
The church members were then forced to obtain donations for a fake charity, Children’s Joy Foundation, which the KOJC founded, the court documents alleged.
They were instructed to tell people donations would go toward helping “impoverished Filipino children,” but prosecutors allege the donations were used to fund operations at KOJC and to contribute to the “lavish lifestyle” of church leaders.
Some church members were even forced into sham marriages with other KOJC members to obtain a visa, prosecutors said.
Church leaders punished those who didn’t meet their daily fundraising quotas by yelling at or physically abusing them, court documents allege. In one instance the indictment outlines, workers were “forced to fast, i.e., abstain from food, while being locked in a room at the KOJC Compound.”
According to the indictment, many of the church members sent to the US were unaware of their task before arrival. Once there, prosecutors say, they worked long hours, slept in cars, and didn’t have access to medication or, in some cases, appropriate clothing.
All meals and other necessities were subtracted from one’s daily quota, so many skipped meals to ensure they raised enough money for the day, the court documents said.
Quiboloy founded the KOJC Restorationist church in the Philippines in 1985 and claims to have 6 million members worldwide, Asia Times reported in 2016. The charges against him and the other church leaders include sex trafficking, conspiracy, marriage fraud, visa fraud, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering.
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