The leader of a Mexico-based church was charged Tuesday with human trafficking and child rape charges after California prosecutors claim he used his status in the community to coerce his victims into sex acts.
Joaquín García, 50, a self-proclaimed apostle of The Light of the World Church in Guadalajara was arrested Monday after landing at Los Angeles International Airport on 26 felony charges including human trafficking and forcible rape of a minor, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office said in a statement.
He is being held on a $25 million bail.
The fundamentalist Christian church, founded in 1926 by García’s grandfather and with claims to over a million followers, has been the subject of child sex abuse allegations for years.
The case against García was brought on by the state’s Attorney’s Office after three girls and one woman detail a series of disturbing accusations against him between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County.
García who was a minister in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California before becoming the church's leader — coerced the victims into performing sex acts by telling them that refusing would be going against God, authorities said.
He allegedly forced the victims, who were members of the church, to sexually touch themselves and each other. García told one of the victims and others in 2017, after they had completed a "flirty" dance wearing "as little clothing as possible" that kings can have mistresses and an apostle of God cannot be judged for his actions, the complaint states.
A church spokesperson denied the allegations in a phone call with The Associated Press.
A second person, 24-year-old Susana Medina Oaxaca, was arrested in connection with the sexual abuse allegations on Monday.
Alondra Ocampo, 36, a follower of García, was also arrested Wednesday while a fourth person, Azalea Rangel Melendez, remains at large.
According to the church’s website, it has more than 15,000 churches in 58 countries. Followers must adhere to a strict moral code in exchange for the promise of eternal salvation. Mexican authorities have never filed criminal charges against the organization.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.