LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A judge has ordered Naason Joaquin Garcia, head of the Mexican-based church La Luz Del Mundo, to remain in jail without bail.
Garcia is charged with rape and other sexual acts against children and was originally being held on $50 million bail. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Fields said he believed Garcia was a flight risk and thought the information provided by the alleged victims was “very detailed.”
“Religion was used against these girls,” Fields said, noting that it was particularly disturbing that they were told that if they disobeyed Garcia, they were going against God.
La Luz Del Mundo, the religious group Garcia leads, is headquartered in Mexico and 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 last month 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.
The 50-year-old church leader was initially held on $25 million bail. That was later doubled before the California Attorney General’s Office asked for him to be held without bail.
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.
A church spokesperson has denied the claims, calling them slander and saying Garcia remains La Luz Del Mundo’s spiritual leader.
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.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)