The leader of La Luz del Mundo, an evangelical Mexican megachurch headquartered in Guadalajara, faces more than 16 years in a California prison after pleading guilty Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court to felony counts of sexually abusing three children.
Naason Joaquin Garcia, 53, is considered the “apostle” of Jesus Christ by his followers. Garcia, who was arrested in Los Angeles in 2019, pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child who was 15.
He will be sentenced on Wednesday. Reuters noted that several of the alleged victims have asked for Garcia to receive maximum prison time.
Garcia had help from church youth group leader Alondra Ocampo, who would tell the girls that they were going against the desires of “the apostle,” or “God,” if they did not follow through with Garcia’s requests.
Ocampo allegedly would tell the teenage girls to perform “flirty” dances for Garcia, along with nude photo shoots of the girls inappropriately touching each other, according to the charges.
The Associated Pressed noted that Garcia also faces charges of human trafficking to produce child pornography.
Garcia took over the megachurch from his father, Samuel Joaquin Flores, when he died in 2014. In 1997, his father faced child sex abuse allegations. The megachurch, which has 5 million followers, was started by Garcia’s grandfather in 1926.