FBI arrests Filipino church leaders in immigrant trafficking scam

FBI arrests 3 Kingdom of Jesus Christ administrators over immigration fraud

VAN NUYS, CA — Police tape and a broken-down door. The FBI raided The Kingdom of Jesus Christ compound in Van Nuys on Wednesday morning, arresting top church officials in the U.S — Guia Cabactulan and Marissa Duenas.

A third person, Amanda Estopare was arrested in Virginia.

The FBI says the Philippine-based church with multiple U.S. locations has been using an immigration scheme to bring in so-called “full time workers.”

The FBI has been investigated the scheme since 2014 as alleged victims come forward.

“We believe they are bringing people into the United States, from the Philippines with promises of work, legitimate work, in some case musical related work and when they get here, the passports are taken from them, we believe they are kept to stay in places like you see behind me and forced to work, and the work includes soliciting money for what they say is impoverished children in the Philippines. But what we believe this $20 million in the past several years has gone to fund lavish lifestyles of the leaders of this scheme,” said  Laura Eimiller, FBI Spokesperson.

According to the complaint, which is also being viewed as possible labor trafficking, members of the Pastor Apollo Quiboloy-founded church would be offered a chance to travel to the US as musicians and would receive temporary visas either as business, tourist or religious workers.

“In some cases Individuals are being made to work all day for little or no pay, they’re given quotas, if they don’t raise enough money, we believe they are abused physically.”

Authorities say that sham marriages would be arranged for workers who earned the most. But anyone who would attempt to flee the church or speak against it would be punished.

While the FBI has not ruled out additional charges, or arrests, they also have not ruled out additional victims. They’re hoping that more can come forward.

So far the authorities, who also searched multiple KJC offices, have identified 82 sham marriages, but they fear there may have been hundreds of victims scattered throughout the United States.

“We’re asking anyone who believes they are victims of may know something about it, we’re asking people to come forward. We’ve established an 800 line, 1-800-CALL-FBI.”

Eimiller adds that they have staff that can assist potential victims in different languages including Filipino.

Estopare will remain in custody in Virgina, while Cabactulan and Duenas are expected to appear in court on Thursday afternoon.

Qiuboloy’s lawyer downplays the arrests, and says these are efforts to discredit the pastor.

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