US prosecutors on Thursday announced sex-trafficking charges alleging that girls and young women were coerced to have sex with Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, the founder of a Philippines-based church who is a friend and adviser to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.
A 74-page indictment charges Quiboloy, founder of a church called “Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name” (KOJC) and other church officials — including two US-based church administrators — with running a sex-trafficking operation that threatened victims as young as 12 with "eternal damnation" and physical abuse.
9 defendants charged
Reuters reported that federal prosecutors in Los Angeles stated the new indictment expanded on allegations made in 2020 against three church administrators based in the city. It charges nine defendants with participating in a scheme in which church members were brought to the US using fraudulently obtained visas and forced to solicit donations to a bogus children's charity.
Prosecutors said the donations were used to pay for the “lavish lifestyles” of the church leaders. The latest indictment adds Quiboloy and five other new defendants to an existing indictment filed in 2020.
Prosecutors said US authorities arrested three of the new defendants on Thursday. Lawyers for the new defendants could not immediately be identified, according to Reuters.
‘Night duty’ of personal assistants as young as 12
The indictment alleges that Quiboloy and two other defendants recruited females aged 12 to 25 as personal assistants, or “pastorals.” It said they were required to prepare Quiboloy’s meals, clean his residences, give him massages and have sex with him during what they called “night duty.”
‘Owner of the universe’
The influential evangelist is followed by millions of Filipinos.
Quiboloy, a self-proclaimed “Owner of the Universe” and “Appointed Son of God”, is a longtime friend and spiritual adviser of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
In September, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, a candidate for next year’s presidential election who has frequently clashed with Duterte, sued Quiboloy for libel after he accused the multiple world champion of embezzling funds intended for a sports complex.
Church leaders are highly influential in Philippine elections. Duterte is prevented by the constitution from running for a second term as president.
Quiboloy’s comment sought
On Friday, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) stated that it sought Quiboloy's comment but was told the pastor would release a statement “soon”.
Three of the new defendants were arrested on November 18, 2021 by federal authorities and are expected to make their initial appearance at the US District Court in Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Where is Quiboloy?
US media described Quiboloy, 71, as a “flamboyant” pastor. He is believed to be living in a compound in southern Philippines. US media reported that he also has homes in Hawaii, California and Nevada.
Matthew Moon, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, stated that a total of five women were trafficked, and that three of them were minors. Attorney Victor Bakke represented one of those victims.
“She was sexually abused, forced into labor, she was physically abused and then when she reported it, they retaliated against her,” Bakke was quoted by the US media as saying.
Federal authorities also alleged the church forced young members to work long hours in the hot streets soliciting donations for a bogus charity. “The funds were actually used to fund church operations and the very lavish lifestyles of its leaders,” Moon said.
The mega-church of Quiboloy, a self-described “appointed son of God,” has a worldwide reach. He has claimed to have more than 6 million members in more than 200 countries. He has more than 1.2 million Facebook followers. In 2018, local media in Hawaii reported that Quiboloy’s church ran a child sex ring. In the superseding indictment unsealed Thursday, US authorities expanded the scope of previous charges by adding six new defendants, including Quiboloy.
The ongoing investigation into Quiboloy and KOJC is led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and other US agencies.