The leader and self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo — a controversial church in Mexico that claims over 1 million followers — is charged with human trafficking and child rape, California authorities said.
Officials arrested Joaquín García and two others Monday night in Los Angeles County, according to the California attorney general’s office. A fourth defendant remains at large.
García is being held on $25 million bail in Los Angeles ahead of his arraignment on 26 counts of felony charges that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to forcible rape of a minor, officials said.
He is accused of committing the crimes in Southern California between 2015 and 2018 and coercing underage victims into performing sex acts by telling them that refusing would be going against God.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether García had an attorney.
The church, whose name translates to The Light of the World, has been the subject of child sex abuse allegations for years but authorities in Mexico have never filed criminal charges.
Defendant Alondra Ocampo’s arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.
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