LOS ANGELES (CN) — The leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three minors days before he was to go on trial in Los Angeles.
Naasón Joaquín García pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child who was 15 years old, according to a statement Friday from California Attorney General Rob Bonta. He's scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
“Today’s conviction sends a clear message that sexual exploitation is never acceptable in California. We will hold you accountable if you break the law,” Bonta said in the statement. “As the leader of La Luz del Mundo, Naasón Joaquín García used his power to take advantage of children. He relied on those around him to groom congregants for the purposes of sexual assault. Today’s conviction can never undo the harm, but it will help protect future generations.”
García, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo — which means “The Light of the World” in Spanish — was arrested in June 2019 and accused of participating in human trafficking and child rape. He was arrested alongside his associates, Susana Medina Oaxaca and Alondra Ocampo, who were all charged with a total of 29 felony counts.
Oaxaca also pleaded guilty Friday in court and was convicted of assault likely to cause great bodily injury, according to the AG's statement. Ocampo pleaded guilty in 2020 to three felony counts of contact with a minor for the purposes of committing a sexual offense and one count of forcible sexual penetration.
The case was thrown out on a technicality two years ago before it got reinstated.
State prosecutors accused García of coercing underage girls into performing sex acts by telling them that refusing would be going against God, the initial indictment said.
They alleged that García forced the victims, who were members of the church, to sexually touch themselves and each other. One of his co-defendants allegedly took nude photographs of the victims and sent the pictures to García, according to the criminal complaint.
García told one of the victims and others in 2017 after they had completed a “flirty” dance wearing “as little clothing as possible,” that kings can have mistresses and an apostle of God cannot be judged for his actions, according to the state's allegations.
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