La Luz del Mundo church leader faces new rape charges
The state’s attorney general has filed new charges against the leader of the Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo megachurch, who has been accused of raping children under the guise of his leadership.
The charges, filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, come four months after Naason Joaquin Garcia’s criminal case was dropped by a California appeals court on procedural grounds.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra refiled the charges and added at least six additional felony charges each against Garcia, 51, and one of his co-defendants, Alondra Ocampo, 37.
The new complaint includes 36 felony charges for crimes that allegedly occurred between June 2015 and April 2018.
Also facing charges are Garcia’s assistant, 25-year-old Susana Medina Oaxaca, who was released after posting bail, and Azalea Rangel Melendez, whom authorities have been unable to locate.
Garcia’s attorney, Alan Jackson, could not be reached for comment, but Garcia has denied any wrongdoing.
The church leader, known among La Luz del Mundo’s members as the “apostle” of Jesus Christ, has been in custody since June 2019.
The appeals court ruled in April that because Garcia’s preliminary hearing was not held in a timely manner and he did not waive his right to one after an amended complaint, the criminal complaint should be dismissed. The complaint included more than two dozen felony charges ranging from human trafficking and production of child pornography to forcible rape of a minor.
“This is a long overdue recognition that the government has violated Mr. Garcia’s constitutional right to a speedy trial and reasonable bond,” Garcia’s attorney said in a statement following the appeals court decision. “In their zeal to secure a conviction at any cost, the attorney general has sought to strip Mr. Garcia of his freedom without due process by locking him up without bail on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations by unnamed accusers and by denying him his day in court.“
Ocampo had been accused of being the “groomer and recruiter” of girls who were allegedly sexually assaulted by Garcia.
The criminal complaint outlines instances in which Ocampo allegedly asked girls to undress and take photographs of their genitals to send to Garcia, whom she called “the servant of God.”
One one occasion between September 2017 and January 2018, Ocampo took three girls to an office building and “provided them with schoolgirl outfits, directed them to touch their own breasts and buttocks, as well as each other’s, and took photos of them doing so,” the complaint alleges.
During another instance in 2017, she allegedly told a group of girls that if they went against the desires of “the apostle,” they were going against God, according to the complaint. A month later, she allegedly directed the girls to perform “flirty” dances for Garcia “wearing as little clothing as possible,” the complaint states.
In a 2019 hearing, a witness testified that Garcia possessed pornography that depicted him having intercourse with a woman while she performed oral sex on a boy. The video also showed four females “of a very young age” performing oral sex on one another.
In February, a former member of La Luz del Mundo filed a lawsuit against the church and Garcia alleging he and other high-ranking church members engaged in human trafficking, racketeering, sexual battery and forced labor, among other charges.
Garcia is being held on $50-million bail and Ocampo is being held on $25-million bail. The defendants are scheduled to appear in court Aug. 4, according to a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office.
Times staff writer Leila Miller contributed to this report.
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