Church Leaders Indicted in California Over Alleged Sex Trafficking Scheme
By Danielle Jarvis
November 23, 2021
Leaders of a Philippines-based church have been indicted over allegedly orchestrating a sex trafficking operation that coerced girls and young women to have sex with the church’s leader under threats of “eternal damnation.”
The nine defendants named in the 42-count superseding indictment are charged with participating in a labor trafficking scheme that brought church members to the United States, via fraudulently obtained visas, and forced the members to solicit donations for a bogus charity – the Glendale-based Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF) – donations that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders. Members who proved successful at soliciting for the KOJC allegedly were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to continue soliciting in the United States year-round.
The superseding indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on November 10, expands the scope of the 2020 indictment by adding six new defendants, including the KOJC’s leader, Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, who was referred to as “The Appointed Son of God.”
Three of the new defendants were arrested Thursday by federal authorities. The remaining three, including Quiboloy, are believed to be in the Philippines.
The defendants charged in the superseding indictment are:
Quiboloy, believed to be 71, whose primary residence is a KOJC compound in Davao City, Philippines, but who also maintained large residences in Calabasas, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Kapolei, Hawaii;
Teresita Tolibas Dandan, also known as “Tessie” and “Sis Ting,” 59, of Davao City, the “international administrator” who was one of the top overseers of KOJC and CJF operations in the United States;
Helen Panilag, 56, of Davao City, the one-time top KOJC administrator in the U.S., who oversaw the collection of financial data from KOJC operations around the globe;
Felina Salinas, also known as “Sis Eng Eng,” 50, of Kapolei, Hawaii, who allegedly was responsible for collecting and securing passports and other documents from KOJC workers in Hawaii, as well as directing funds solicited to church members to church officials in the Philippines (arrested today);
Guia Cabactulan, 61, the lead KOJC administrator in the United States who operated the KOJC compound in Van Nuys (charged in original indictment);
Marissa Duenas, 43, a Van Nuys-based administrator who handled fraudulent immigration documents for workers (charged in original indictment);
Amanda Estopare, 50, another Van Nuys-based administrator who was in charge of tracking and reporting the money raised in the U.S. to KOJC officials in the Philippines (charged in original indictment);
Bettina Padilla Roces, also known as “Kuki,” 48, a fourth administrator who allegedly handled financial matters (arrested today in Reseda); and
Maria De Leon, 72, a resident of the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, the owner of Liberty Legal Document Services, who allegedly processed fraudulent marriages and immigration-related documents for KOJC workers (arrested today at her residence).
The three arrested were expected to make their initial appearances in the United States District Court in both Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Quiboloy has reportedly claimed to possess divine powers, claiming to have stopped the 2019 Cotabato earthquakes at his command and said that the public should thank him for the act. He has publicly said that he did not do the same to stop the onslaught of Typhoon Kammuri (Tisoy) in response to those critical of his earlier claim in stopping the Cotabato earthquakes.
His ministry has a global television channel, the Sonshine Media Network International (President and CEO), and 17 radio stations in the Philippines. It also has two newspapers, Pinas and Sikat. The Pinas is circulated weekly for followers in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
The superseding indictment charges Quiboloy, Dandan and Salinas with participating in a conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, as well as the sex trafficking of children. These three defendants allegedly recruited females ranging from approximately 12 to 25 years of age to work as personal assistants, or “pastorals,” for Quiboloy. The indictment states that the victims prepared Quiboloy’s meals, cleaned his residences, gave him massages and were required to have sex with Quiboloy in what the pastorals called “night duty.” The indictment specifically mentions five female victims, three of whom were minors when the alleged sex trafficking began.
“Defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators coerced pastorals into performing ‘night duty’ – that is, sex – with defendant Quiboloy under the threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation by defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators,” the indictment alleges. “Defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators told pastorals that performing ‘night duty’ was ‘God’s will’ and a privilege, as well as a necessary demonstration of the pastoral’s commitment to give her body to defendant Quiboloy as ‘The Appointed Son of God.’”
The indictment alleges the sex trafficking scheme started no later than 2002 and continued to at least 2018, during which time Quiboloy and his top administrators caused the victims to engage in commercial sex acts by ordering female victims, including the minor victims, to have sex with defendant Quiboloy on a schedule determined by the church leader and others, including Dandan. The victims who were obedient were rewarded with “good food, luxurious hotel rooms, trips to tourist spots, and yearly cash payments that were based on performance” – which were paid for with money solicited by KOJC workers in the United States, according to the indictment.
As part of the alleged scheme, the three defendants told female victims who expressed hesitation at night duty “that they had the devil in them and risked eternal damnation.” Furthermore, Quiboloy would threaten and physically abuse victims who attempted to leave KOJC or were not available to perform night duty, according to the indictment, which also alleges Quiboloy would physically abuse victims for communicating with other men or engaging in other behavior that upset him because he considered such conduct adultery and a sin.
Victims who managed to escape KOJC suffered retaliation in the form of threats, harassment and allegations of criminal misconduct, according to the indictment. “Defendant Quiboloy would give sermons, broadcasted to KOJC members around the world, in which he would allege that victims who escaped had engaged in criminal conduct and sexually promiscuous activity, and therefore faced eternal damnation, in order to discourage other victims from leaving, retaliate against and discredit the victims, and conceal the sexual activity between defendant Quiboloy and the victims,” the indictment states.
Quiboloy, Dandan and Salinas are charged in count one of the superseding indictment, which alleges the sex trafficking conspiracy. Each defendant is charged in at least three of five substantive counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.
The superseding indictment also outlines KOJC’s nationwide soliciting operations, which allegedly gave rise to additional criminal conduct, including forced labor, labor trafficking, document servitude, marriage fraud and money laundering.
Under Quiboloy’s direction, KOJC administrators allegedly brought workers from the Philippines to the United States and confiscated all forms of identification before forcing the workers to spend long hours illegally soliciting money for KOJC outside of businesses across the United States. While KOJC workers told potential donors their money would be used by CJF to help impoverished children, the money was actually used to directly finance KOJC operations and the lavish lifestyle of KOJC leaders, including Quiboloy, according to the indictment.
“KOJC administrators maintained the legal immigration status of workers who proved capable of meeting daily cash solicitation quotas by fraudulently obtaining student visas for such workers or by forcing them to enter into sham marriages with other KOJC workers who had already obtained United States citizenship,” the indictment states.
Some of the workers were moved around the United States to solicit donations as CJF “volunteers,” who were also called Full Time Miracle Workers, according to the indictment, which alleges these “workers fundraised for KOJC nearly every day, year-round, working very long hours, and often sleeping in cars overnight.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The sex trafficking conspiracy charge alleged in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison. The five substantive sex trafficking charges each carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in federal prison and a potential sentence of life. The additional fraud, cash smuggling and money laundering offenses in the indictment carry statutory maximum penalties ranging from five to 20 years in federal prison.
As part of the ongoing investigation, the FBI is encouraging potential victims or anyone with information about KOJC activities to contact investigators. Those with information are asked to call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565. Individuals may also contact the FBI through its website at https://www.fbi.gov/tips.
The ongoing investigation into KOJC is being led by the FBI, which is receiving substantial assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Fraud Detection and National Security Unit, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and IRS Criminal Investigation.