LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The leader of a Mexico-based evangelical church who is accused of forcible rape and other charges is due back in a Los Angeles courtroom today for an arraignment and hearing on whether his $50 million bail should be reduced.
Naason Joaquin Garcia, 50, is charged with one count each of forcible rape of a minor, committing a lewd act on a child, forcible oral copulation of a person under 18, unlawful sexual intercourse and extortion, along with two counts of forcible rape, oral copulation of a person under 18 and conspiracy and three counts of forcible oral copulation.
He is scheduled for arraignment Friday along with two of his three co- defendants, Alondra Ocampo, 36, and Susana Medina Oaxaca, 24. The other co- defendant remains at large.
Garcia is the leader of La Luz del Mundo, which claims more than a million members worldwide and has about 40 locations in Southern California. The church was founded by Garcia's grandfather.
The state Attorney General's Office filed charges in early June against Garcia, Ocampo, Oaxaca and the fourth defendant in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that the crimes were committed in Southern California between June 2015 and April 2018.
Ashley Valdez, a spokesman for the church, vehemently denied the allegations against the man viewed by followers as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
“The church categorically rejects each and every allegation made against him,” Valdez said.
Garcia is being held in lieu of $50 million bail. Ocampo is jailed in lieu of $25 million bail and Oaxaca is being held in lieu of $5 million bail.
Ocampo is charged with 21 counts, including forcible rape of a minor, forcible oral copulation of a person under 18, human trafficking for production of child pornography and production/distribution of child pornography, while Oaxaca is charged with one count each of forcible oral copulation of a person under 18 and oral copulation of a person under 18.
The fourth defendant, Azalea Rangel Melendez, remains at large and is charged with one count each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation.
State prosecutors allege that Garcia and his co-defendants coerced the victims into performing sexual acts by warning them that defying “the Apostle” is akin to defying God.
The criminal complaint alleges, among other acts, that Ocampo directed minors to perform “flirty” dances for Garcia “wearing as little clothing as possible.” Ocampo also allegedly ordered various minors to “take off their clothing and touch each other sexually.”
The complaint also alleges that Garcia kissed and groped a 15-year-old girl in his office, and that he and Ocampo forcibly raped an underage girl. Garcia, Ocampo and Oaxaca also allegedly performed sex acts on an underage girl, according to the complaint.
Ocampo also allegedly instructed three underage girls to take nude photos of themselves to send to Garcia, telling them to “take photos without their underwear and with their legs open.”
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