THE Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) three members of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s “Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church, The Name Above Every Name,” or KOJC, on a complaint of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.
The arrested church members were identified as Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, and Amanda Estopare.
The US Department of Justice said Cabactulan and Duenas were arrested by the FBI at the church’s compound in Van Nuys, California while Estopare was nabbed in Virginia. If found guilty, the three may spend five years in prison.
Quiboloy, a close friend of President Duterte, is no stranger to controversy as he is facing several allegations of cash smuggling and running a “child sex ring” in Hawaii.
A former church member also filed a case against him in Davao City in 2019 for rape.
In 2018, a leader of the KOJCs Hawaii branch was apprehended for smuggling cash in a private plane in Honolulu bound for the Philippines with Quiboloy on board.
A self-proclaimed son of God, Quiboloy claims his church has millions of members and followers worldwide. He has repeatedly denied allegations against him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said it does not matter whether Quiboloy is a close friend of Duterte.
“You must remember that if a crime is committed in any country, then the laws of that country will have to be followed,” he said.
Malacañang earlier said it would keep its hands off issues plaguing Quiboloy, who has said his friendship with Duterte started way back when Duterte was still vice mayor, and then mayor, of Davao City while his congregation was just starting out.
He lent helicopters and private aircraft to Duterte in the 2016 presidential elections.
Prior to that, Duterte admitted receiving properties, a house and car as gifts from Quiboloy.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on the case.
Cabactulan was identified as the KOJC’s leader in the US, who has direct contact with the church’s leaders in the Philippines while Duenas handled “fraudulent immigration documents” for workers sent from the Philippines.
Estopare was identified as the one who handles and manages finances, including implementing a quota requirement on workers for solicitation operations.
The complaint said the three brought church members from the Philippines to the US to work as fundraisers, and were told the funds would be used for impoverished children in the Philippines, but they ended up as pawns in the KOJC’s years-long fraud scheme.
It alleged that the church workers from the Philippines were ordered to solicit donations with a daily quota for them to meet, and failure to do so resulted in abuse and punishment.
The complaint also said the workers were forced to marry fellow KOJC members who were US citizens so that they can stay in the US and continue with the solicitation drive.
Several victims who have left the KOJC executed affidavits detailing how the Filipino workers brought to the US sent huge sums of money to the Philippines through private and commercial flights.
Most of the money, the complaint, said was used to finance the operation of the church and Quiboloy’s alleged “lavish” lifestyle.
The US Department of Justice said that between 2014 and the middle of last year, some $20 million was sent back to the church in the Philippines.