Crime & Justice

Mexican megachurch leader pleads guilty to sexual abuse in US

Los Angeles, Jun 3 (EFE).- Mexican pastor Naason Joaquin Garcia, leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch, pleaded guilty Friday to at least three counts of child sexual abuse in a court in the United States, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Bonta said the plea agreement includes multiple felonies of sexual assault, involving three minors, comes days before the trial, scheduled to begin Monday with the selection of the jury.

Garcia, 53, faced 19 charges, including sexual assault of minors, possession of child pornography and human trafficking.

The sentencing hearing is set for Wednesday, Jun.8 in a Los Angeles court.

“As the leader of La Luz del Mundo, Naason Joaquin Garcia used his power to take advantage of children. He relied on those around him to groom congregants for the purposes of sexual assault,” Bonta said in a statement.

He said the conviction “can never undo the harm, but it will help protect future generations.”

Garcia was arrested three years ago, along with one of his assistants, Susana Medina Oaxaca, after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on a private plane.

Medina, Alondra Ocampo and Azalea Rangel Melendez also face charges in the same case. Melendez is a fugitive of the law.

Bonta said that the investigation, which began in 2018, culminated in the arrest of Garcia, Medina and Ocampo in 2019 for conduct that occurred for several years in Los Angeles County since at least 2015.

Ocampo, who had pleaded guilty to four charges in October 2020, was a potential witness against the religious leader at trial.

Prosecutor Bonta reported that Oaxaca also pleaded guilty Friday in court to charges of assault that would likely cause serious bodily injury.

The non-Trinitarian La Luz del Mundo Christian church, which has its international headquarters in Guadalajara, Mexico, was founded in 1926 by Aaron Joaquin, Naason’s grandfather.

It is currently present in 60 countries and claims to have up to 5 million followers. EFE


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