Case files: Quiboloy's church workers in LA physically abused, forced into fake marriages

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Case files: Quiboloy's church workers in LA physically abused, forced into fake marriages
Photo shows Kingdom of Jesus Christ church founder Apollo Quiboloy.
Pastor Apollo Quiboloy / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines (First published Jan. 30 at 4:01 p.m.) — Workers for the church of evangelist Apollo Quiboloy in Los Angeles were physically abused and were forced into fraudulent marriages to continue staying in the United States, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.

The FBI raided the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) in a human trafficking investigation which led to the arrests of three church administrators.

In an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint against the church leaders, FBI special agent Anne Wetzel said KOJC administrators Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas and Amanda Estopare conspired to submit false visa applications so that workers would be allowed entry to the US.

The three leaders would confiscate the passports and force the workers to work as "volunteers" to beg for and solicit donations across the country.

KOJC workers who were good at soliciting money would be forced into fraudulent marriages so that they could stay in the country and continue soliciting, Wetzel said.

"For victims who prove capable of meeting the cash solicitation quotas, KOJC administrators seek to maintain the legal United States status of the workers by fraudulently obtaining student visas or by forcing the victims to engage in fraudulent marriage with another member of KOJC who has already obtained United States citizenship," the affidavit read.

Top-earning workers who were over 18 years old were forced to marry US citizens so they could stay in the country and continue soliciting.

Data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service showed that 82 marriages were entered by KOJC members and full-time solicitors between March 1999 and December 2019.

Cabactulan, lead KOJC administrator in the US, previously coordinated misrepresentations to immigration authorities and fake marriages before taking overall leadership. Duenas also participated in this by applying for sham marriages and fraudulent student visas on behalf of the victims, according to the affidavit.

FBI investigation found that the KOJC started arranging marriages in 2007 to have workers stay in the US as the church could solicit more money in the US than in the Philippines.

A victim told the FBI that Duenas often traveled to different chapters of the church in the US to check the status of the fraudulent marriages.

Wetzel also narrated how KOJC workers were being subjected to sanctions, including physical abuse, if they failed to meet the quota.

"If a KOJC worker did not make their daily goal or quota, they were often punished by KOJC leaders, including Estopare, by being yelled at, shamed, or berated," the FBI agent said.

"KOJC workers who did not make their daily quotas were verbally yelled at and emotionally abused," she added.

A victim told the FBI that she was hit on the back with a paddle approximately 100 times on her first day in Upper Six, a walled compound where people that angered the church or pastor were sanctioned.

This same victim, referred to as "Victim M" in the affidavit, said her head was shaved and she was made to wear an orange shirt with "SOS" in the back that stood for "Son of Satan" when she arrived at the compound.

"According to Victim M, people in Upper Six were assigned duties, and if the duties were not performed perfectly, they were punished," Weltz said.

Quiboloy, a close friend of President Rodrigo Duterte and self-proclaimed "appointed son of God," created the KOJC in Davao in 1985. Its website claims having six million members around the world.

In October 2018, Hawaii News Now reported that a former KOJC member accused Quiboloy of running a "child sex ring." Earlier that year, federal agents also found $350,000 worth of cash and gun parts on a private plane where Quiboloy was boarded.

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