EAST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The leader of religious organization La Luz Del Mundo has been arrested on charges of forcible rape on a minor, human trafficking, child pornography and other felonies.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Tuesday announced the arrest and filing of charges against Naasón Joaquín García and his co-defendants.
The religious organization, headquartered in Mexico, reportedly has over a million followers worldwide — many of those in Los Angeles.
In the criminal complaint filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the California Department of Justice alleges Joaquín García and his co-defendants committed 26 felonies in Southern California between 2015 and 2018 while leading La Luz Del Mundo. Joaquín García and his co-defendants allegedly coerced victims into performing sexual acts by telling them that if they went against any of his desires or wishes as “the Apostle,” that they were going against God.
The other individuals named in the complaint are Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Melendez, and Susana Medina Oaxaca, all of whom are affiliated with La Luz Del Mundo. In addition to Joaquín García, Alondra Ocampo and Susana Medina Oaxaca were also arrested. An arrest warrant has also been issued for Azalea Rangel Melendez, who remained at large at the time of this report.
A representative for the organization is denying all charges.
“He is a good man. He is a holy man. He teaches respect for all. He has countless recognition from around the world for humanitarian work in helping women and children in need,” said La Lus Del Mundo Minister Jack Freeman.
Neighbors who live next to Garcia say the church is like a cult and rumors had been swirling for years about the alleged sexual abuse on minor girls.
“Like these little kids don’t know any better. You’re preying on innocent little girls. It’s really bad,” one woman said.
Bail for Joaquín García is set at $25 million.
If you believe you have been a victim of sexual abuse or have information about incidents of sexual misconduct related to anyone who may be involved in this case, please call (323) 765-2100 or you can file a complaint online at https://oag.ca.gov/LLDM.