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Monday, March 4, 2024

Quiboloy’s co-accused flip-flops

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To plead guilty to fraud role with pastor’s church leaders in US

Los Angeles paralegal agreed to plead guilty to participating in an alleged scheme to violate US immigration laws for members of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) Church, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

Pastor ApolloQuiboloy

Maria de Leon, 73, was among the nine people—including the church’s founder, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy—who were accused of running a labor-trafficking scheme to bring church members to the US through fraudulently obtained visas where they were allegedly forced to “solicit donations for a bogus charity, donations that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders.”

De Leon, a resident of Koreatown in Los Angeles, “agreed to plead guilty to participating in a scheme with administrators of the church, which is known as the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC),” the US Justice Department said.

Quiboloy’s camp denied any connection with De Leon.

“First, we cannot comment on Ms. Maria De Leon, one of the supposed co-accused of Pastor Quiboloy, except to say that she is not a member of the

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Quiboloy’s…Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJOC) which Pastor Quiboloy heads, and neither is she connected nor affiliated in any way with the KJOC, nor with Pastor Quiboloy officially or personally,” Quiboloy’s legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio told GMA News Online.

Topacio described De Leon as an “independent contractor whose company renders paralegal services to the public at large.”

“Secondly, under the legal doctrine of res inter alios acta—which is likewise applicable in the courts of the United States—any confession only binds the confessor. Being the act of a third party, it cannot affect Pastor Quiboloy or any other co-accused, nor should it negatively affect the cases against them.”

“Third, we cannot discount the possibility of pressure being brought to bear on the 73-year old Ms. De Leon as part of the pattern of harassment being employed against Pastor Quiboloy and the KJOC in the United States for purely political motives,” Topacio added.

In addition to pleading guilty, De Leon agreed to cooperate in the case filed by the US government, the US Justice Department said.

“At the time De Leon completed the immigration paperwork for certain KOJC members, she knew that the immigration paperwork was based upon false representations of the bona fides of the underlying marriages made by church officials,” read the plea agreement.

“Members who proved successful at soliciting for the KOJC were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to acquire legal status in the United States so they could continue soliciting donations, the indictment alleges,” the US Justice Department said.

Quiboloy and two other members of KOJC have been indicted in the United States and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has released “wanted” posters on the religious leader.

A federal warrant was issued against Quiboloy in the US on Nov. 10, 2021 over his grand jury indictment before the US District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana, California “for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of children; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling.”

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