LOS ANGELES (CN) — The leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch was sentenced to 16 years and 8 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors.
Naasón Joaquín García, 53, will also be required to register as a sex offender for life, according to a statement Wednesday from California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Jury selection had been scheduled to start this week in Los Angeles, but Garcia pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three minors on Friday and avoided a trial. Some of his victims testified at his sentencing hearing today about the abuse they suffered at Garcia's hands.
“Today’s sentence for Naasón Joaquín García is a critical step forward for justice,” Bonta said. “While it will never undo the harm and trauma he caused as the leader of La Luz del Mundo, this sentence makes it crystal clear that abusers — no matter who they are — will be held accountable.”
García, the self-proclaimed apostle of Mexico-based 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. She was sentenced to one year probation in addition to time served in jail and on house arrest, as well as six months of psychiatric counseling, 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.