LOS ANGELES — A pair of U.S. administrators for the Philippine-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church entered their post-indictment arraignments on Thursday afternoon at a Los Angeles court.
Guia Cabactulan and Marissa Duenas each entered ‘Not Guilty’ pleas during their brief appearances.
Both women entered their pleas behind a window, while Cabactulan was sitting in a wheelchair. During her initial court appearance following her arrest, she told the court that she suffered from several health issues.
A third defendant, Amanda Estopare, was apprehended in Virginia and was arraigned separately last Friday. She also entered a not guilty plea and is expected to join her codefendants for the jury trial.
They each face a one-count indictment that alleges them of engaging in a conspiracy that includes labor trafficking, document servitude and immigration and marriage fraud.
Under the alleged plot which has been under investigation by U.S. authorities since 2014, the women were part of a scheme to lure members of a megachurch founded by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy — from the Philippines to the US — to participate in music, church, and school programs.
But prosecutors said upon arrival they would be forced into soliciting donations, with the money funding the church leaders lavish lifestyles.
Lawyers for Quiboloy have called the allegations lies from former church members, describing them as efforts to discredit the pastor who had been facing several other cases in the US.
Despite requests from their lawyers, the codefendants were denied bail due to their status as flight risks, and for their knowledge of the immigration system which prosecutors claim they used to carry out their alleged scheme.
Their next court appearance is scheduled for April 7th with a pretrial status conference set for March 2nd.