SANTA ANA (CNS) - Three top managers of a Philippines-based church are due before a federal judge in Santa Ana today on charges of participating in an immigration fraud scheme in which church members were brought to the United States to work as fund-raisers and sham marriages arranged to keep high- performing workers in the country.
The defendants, who were described as the main administrators in the U.S. of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name, were identified by the U.S. Attorney's Office as:
-- Guia Cabactulan, the top church official in the U.S., who allegedly maintained direct communication with KOJC leadership in the Philippines;
-- Marissa Duenas, who allegedly handled fraudulent immigration documents for KOJC workers and secured the passports immediately after workers entered the U.S.; and
-- Amanda Estopare, who allegedly handled the financial aspects of the church enterprise, including enforcing fundraising quotas for workers.
Cabactulan, 59, and Duenas, 41, were arrested Wednesday at a KOJC compound in Van Nuys, where they lived. They are expected to make their initial court appearances this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. Estopare, 48, was arrested in Virginia.
The criminal complaint alleges that the defendants obtained visas for church members to enter the U.S. by claiming, for example, they would be performing at musical events.
But once the church members arrived in the country, they were allegedly required to surrender their passports and work long hours as full- time workers -- also called “miracle workers” -- who solicited donations for a church nonprofit called the Children's Joy Foundation USA, according to federal prosecutors.
While the workers raised funds by telling donors their money would benefit impoverished children in the Philippines, the complaint alleges that most or all of the money raised was used to finance church operations and its leader's lavish lifestyle.
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