Paralegal Maria de Leon agrees to plead guilty to her role in facilitating fake marriages to allow church workers to immigrate to the US to solicit ‘donations’ for Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s ‘fake charity’
MANILA, Philippines — Los Angeles-based paralegal Maria de Leon has admitted conspiring with embattled preacher Apollo Quiboloy’s underlings to smuggle church workers into the United States, including through sham marriages, it said Friday. the US Department of Justice (US DOJ) in a statement. April 1.
De Leon has agreed to plead guilty to the United States District Attorney’s Office for his role in preparing and filing fraudulent documents seeking lawful permanent residence and citizenship for members of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ of Quiboloy, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC). The members allegedly worked to raise money for a “fake charity” run by KOJC, the US DOJ said.
De Leon, 73-year-old owner of Liberty Legal Document Services, admitted that she had been involved in the conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud with KOJC leaders for about eight years.
She agreed to cooperate in the US government case.
According to the plea agreement, “at the time [De Leon] completed immigration paperwork for some KOJC members, [she] knew that the immigration documents were based on false representations of the bona fides of the underlying marriages” made by church officials.
De Leon admitted to submitting fraudulent “foreign relative petitions” and related documents on behalf of KOJC members, fully aware that these marriages were arranged for the purpose of gaining spousal approval to immigrate to the United States. United States.
The paralegal was one of the defendants charged in November 2021 with Quiboloy for a labor trafficking scheme that used fraudulently obtained visas to bring KOJC members to the United States. Once in America, they were “forced” to solicit donations for a fake charity called Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF), based in Glendale, California.
The indictment alleged that the donations were used to fund church operations and the lavish lifestyle of its leaders.
The indictment alleged that members who “succeeded” in soliciting for the church were forced into sham marriages to gain legal status in the United States in order to continue soliciting.
Church workers were moved across the United States soliciting donations for the CJF, and were called “full-time miracle workers”. They “raised funds for KOJC almost every day, year-round, working extremely long hours and often sleeping in cars at night,” according to the indictment.
In addition to labor trafficking, the same November 2021 indictment charged Quiboloy, De Leon and seven others for an alleged sex trafficking scheme that coerced girls and young women into having sex. with Quiboloy, the “Named Son of God,” under threat of “damnation.”
Of the nine defendants in the case, six have been arrested, including De Leon. The other five people arrested, who appeared in federal court in Los Angeles, are due for trial on March 21, 2023.
The other three defendants, including Quiboloy, are fugitives who the US DOJ says are in the Philippines.
U.S. prosecutors are expected to schedule a hearing soon for De Leon to formally enter his guilty plea to the conspiracy charge. Once she pleads guilty, De Leon will face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, the US DOJ said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Justice said on March 26 that it had not yet received approval from the Department of Foreign Affairs on Quiboloy’s possible extradition to the United States.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation encourages potential victims or anyone with information about KOJC activities to contact investigators. Individuals can contact the FBI through its website.
Read De Leon’s full plea agreement here:
– Michelle Abad/Rappler.com