FBI arrests 3 Quiboloy church members in US on immigration fraud charges

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 30) — The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested three members of the church founded by Filipino megachurch leader Apollo Quiboloy for an immigration fraud scheme case.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said three top administrators of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name or KOJC — founded in the Philippines by President Rodrigo Duterte's spiritual adviser and close friend — were charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

Guia Cabactulan and Marissa Duenas were arrested in the church compound in Van Nuys, while Amanda Estopare was apprehended in Virginia on Thursday (Philippine time).

The US DOJ said the three brought KOJC members from the Philippines to the US to work as fundraisers, but ended up as pawns in the church's years-long fraud scheme. The charge sheet alleged that workers were ordered to solicit donations with false promise that the donors' money will be used to help the poor children in the Philippines. The charges also said KOJC set daily cash solicitation quotas; when it's not met, the workers were abused.

The criminal complaint also said the workers were forced to marry fellow KOJC members who were US citizens so they can stay in the country. The affidavit, filled with accounts of victims who have fled the church, said the workers in the US sent huge sums of cash back to KOJC in the Philippines through commercial and private flights.

US DOJ said Cabactulan was identified as KOJC's leader in US and kept direct contact with the group's heads in the Philippines. Duenas allegedly handled "fraudulent immigration documents" for the workers sent to the US and the one who illegally kept their passports. Estopare allegedly managed the finances, including enforcing fundraising quotas for KOJC workers.

The charge of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

Most or all of the money raised was used to finance KOJC operations and Quiboloy’s lavish lifestyle, the US DOJ said, citing the complaint.

However, Quiboloy's lawyer, Israelito Torreon, said the charges against the administrators of the church are part of a "grand conspiracy of lies concocted by former members of the kingdom who struck an alliance with forces who have an axe to grind against" their leader.

Torreon also insisted that Cabactulad and Duenas were "just exercising their religious rights in spreading the good news to the whole world."

He claimed that the two had to face disciplinary proceedings in the church, but they opted to charge admninistrators instead of facing penalties.

He added that Quiboloy is ready to forgive them and welcome them back into their church.

Quiboloy is no stranger to charges. He is facing several allegations of cash smuggling and running a "child sex ring" in Hawaii. A former follower filed a case against him in Davao City in 2019 for rape. His camp has denied the allegations. Malacañang, aware of Quiboloy's close ties to Duterte, has opted to keep its hands off the issue.

The megachurch leader previously said his friendship with Duterte goes way back to when his congregation was just starting out. Quiboloy admitted giving properties, a house, and a vehicle to Duterte. He also lent choppers and other aircraft during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Quiboloy, a self-proclaimed Appointed Son of God, claimed his church has six million followers worldwide.