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Philippines-based church with ties to Hawaii involved in immigration, fundraising fraud, FBI says

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                An FBI evidence response team agent enters a building on the grounds of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles today. The FBI raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles to arrest leaders of an alleged immigration fraud scheme that resulted in sham marriages.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    An FBI evidence response team agent enters a building on the grounds of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles today. The FBI raided a Philippines-based church in Los Angeles to arrest leaders of an alleged immigration fraud scheme that resulted in sham marriages.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                A smashed in door is seen at the entrance of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles today. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that three leaders of the local branch of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ were arrested in morning raids.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A smashed in door is seen at the entrance of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles today. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that three leaders of the local branch of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ were arrested in morning raids.

The FBI arrested three administrators of a Philippines-based church in California and Virginia Wednesday in connection with a years-long alleged fundraising scheme that stretched across the Pacific to Hawaii.

A federal complaint alleges that Guia Cabactulan, 59, Marissa Duenas, 41, and Amanda Estopare, 48, of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name church were involved in the scheme.

Federal agents arrested Cabactulan and Duenas in Van Nuys, Calif., and Estopare in Virginia.

Authorities allege church members were forced to surrender their passports to administrators and work long hours to solicit donations for the Children’s Joy Foundation USA, claiming the money would help support impoverished children in the Philippines.

The complaint alleges most, if not all, the money was instead used to support church operations and the lavish lifestyle of the church leader, Apollo Quiboloy.

Cabactulan allegedly maintained direct communication with the church leaders in the Philippines and Duenas held workers’ passports once they entered the United States.

Estopare allegedly enforced fundraising quotas for the workers.

The complaint alleges workers were forced into sham marriages to continue soliciting donations in the U.S. and were abused if they did not meet their quotas.

The church’s bank accounts show about $20 million in cash deposits from 2014 through mid-2019, according to the FBI.

“Most of these funds appear to derive from street-level solicitation,” according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Anne Wetzel. “Little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children.”

Former workers who fled the church told authorities they sent large sums of cash back to the Philippines on commercial and private flights.

In addition to Wednesday’s arrest of the three administrators, authorities executed search warrants at a Kingdom of Jesus Christ compound in Van Nuys, an office in Glendale for the Children’s Joy Foundation and three other locations in Los Angeles.

Law enforcement also raided two locations in Hawaii linked to the church.

In 2018, Felina S. Salinas was accused of smuggling $335,000 in cash in a suitcase aboard a private jet headed to the Philippines from Hawaii in February 2018 and helping Quiboloy avoid prosecution. Authorities found stacks of $100 bills rolled up inside bundles of men’s socks.

The FBI is leading the investigation alleged fundraising scheme.

Potential victims of the church or anyone with information on the church’s activities are urged to call (800) 225-5324.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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