LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The 50-year-old leader of international mega church La Luz Del Mundo, who was arrested earlier this week on charges of child rape and human trafficking, made his first appearance in Los Angeles County Superior Court Wednesday.

A judge set Naason Joaquin Garcia’s bail at a staggering $50 million.

Naason Joaquin Garcia appears in L.A. County Superior Court on June 5, 2019. (CBS2)

La Luz Del Mundo, the religious group Garcia leads which is headquartered in Mexico, has over a million followers worldwide, according to the California attorney general’s office. Critics accuse the church of being a cult.

Garcia was taken into custody Monday evening at Los Angeles International Airport on 26 felony counts of including human trafficking, production of child pornography, forcible rape of a minor and other felonies. The alleged crimes occurred in L.A. County between 2015 and 2018.

He was arrested along with two female members of his church, Alondra Ocampo and Susana Medina Oaxaca. A fourth woman, Azalea Rangel Melendez, remains at large.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra holds a news conference on June 6, 2019, to discuss the arrest of Naason Joaquin Garcia. (CBS2)

Prosecutors say Garcia and his co-defendants coerced their victims into performing sexual acts by claiming that if they went against any of his desires or wishes as “the Apostle,” that they were going against God.

“His co-defendants acted in concert with him to accomplish the crimes alleged, and they were also members of his organization,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference in Sacramento Thursday.

Becerra is asking for any possible victims of Garcia and other La Luz Del Mundo leaders to come forward.

A church spokesperson has denied the claims, calling them slander and saying Garcia remains La Luz Del Mundo’s spiritual leader.

“He speaks for God, he is the mouthpiece for God,” church spokesperson Ashley Valdez told reporters in L.A. Wednesday.

“He is a good man,” La Lus Del Mundo Minister Jack Freeman told CBS2 Tuesday. “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.”

Garcia and his co-defendants are scheduled to be arraigned June 10.

“Right now, California is the center of human trafficking,” Becerra said. “We have the highest number of human trafficking cases reported in the country.”

If you have been a victim of La Luz Del Mundo or known someone who has, you can file a complaint online here. You can also call 323-765-2100.

Comments
  1. Tom Kelly says:

    Religious people mystify me. They believe in totally unprovable stories of some benevolent deity and then let some charltans defraud them of their money. Logic and facts seem to elude these people completely. It makes me sad that so many people are dupes.

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