Mexican religious leader charged with sex crimes held on $90 million bail

Naasón Joaquín García is charged with child rape and human trafficking

Mexican religious leader charged with sex crimes held on $90 million bail
Naasón Joaquín García is the leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch - Photo: Al Seib/AP
English 07/08/2020 14:35 EFE Mexico City Actualizada 14:35
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A Los Angeles judge has set a USD $90 million bail on Mexican La Luz del Mundo megachurch leader Naasón Joaquín García for the new 36 charges for sex abuse, lewd acts against a minor, and extortion he faces along with other three members of the religious organization in California.

After a three-days long hearing, judge George Lomeí from the Los Angeles High Court made a decision regarding the new trial faced by Joaquín García, 51, and two alleged accomplices – Alondra Ocampos and Susana Medina Oaxaca – for the 36 new charges presented by the California Attorney General’s Office last week.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office had to refile the charges after a California Second District Court of Appeal dismissed the criminal proceedings against the religious leader due to a technicality last April and by which his lawyers expected his release, considering the coronavirus pandemic.

Since last Tuesday, Lomelí listened to testimonies of several people involved in the case, such as special agent Troy Holmes, who had already presented a similar testimony last year during the first accusation.

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There were also testimonies in favor of the accused asserting he did not have enough money to pay for the USD $50 million bail that had been imposed during the first procedure.

Nevertheless, Lomelí decided to raise the sum to USD $90 million, an amount the religious leader would have to pay to be released or otherwise continue in jail to face a possible trial, as confirmed to EFE by Becerra’s office.

Joaquín García has been imprisoned since June 3, 2019, when he was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport.

The new charges include five victims, one of whom is identified as Jane Doe 5, who would have been sexually abused in February 2016.

Ocampos is also accused of allegedly asking minors to get naked and take pictures of their genitals to send them to Joaquín García.

Between September 2017 and January 2018, Ocampo took three girls to an office building and “provided them with schoolgirl uniforms, ordered them to touch their bodies, and took photos of them doing so,” according to the charges.

On another occasion, she allegedly told a group of girls in 2017 that if they went against the “apostle’s” wishes, they were against God.

Judge Lomelí assigned Ocampo, 37, a USD $10 million bail. During the first hearing, she was ordered to remain held on a USD $25 million bail.

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Meanwhile, Medina Oaxaca, 25, was granted paroles and her bail has been transferred to the new case.

The Attorney General’s Office added that the charges against a fourth accused, Azalea Rangel Meléndez, who has an arrest warrant against her, have not changed from the previous case.

Attorney General Becerra has urged possible victims or witnesses of the alleged crimes to file charges.

Last February, Sochil Martín, a former member of the La Luz del Mundo church, took legal actions against the religious organization, including Joaquín García.

Born on May 7, 1969 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and son of “apostle” Samuel Joaquín and Eva García, Naasón is the fifth of eight brothers and carried on with the family dynasty at the front of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch once his father died.

The Guadalajara-based evangelical church was founded by Eusebio Joaquín in 1926 and is currently present in 60 countries and claims to have over 5 million followers.

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