Hawaii Megachurch Accused of Human Trafficking and Using Violence to Raise Money March 30, 2018

Hawaii Megachurch Accused of Human Trafficking and Using Violence to Raise Money

Forget 10 percent; this church allegedly used violence and fear to get its members to raise even more money.

The Hawaii outpost of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a Philippines-based megachurch that boasts six million followers around the world, is under investigation by the FBI for “aggressive fundraising” and potential human rights abuses. The church is led by Apollo Quiboloy, who is close friends with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The FBI investigation is looking into Felina Salinas, the church’s business manager who was recently arrested for trying to smuggle $350,000 in cash out of the U.S.

Shortly after Salinas’ arrest, the sources said that the FBI sent an agent from it[s] Los Angeles office, who spent several days here pursuing the trafficking angle.

Salinas was previously arrested in 2015 for allegedly assaulting a fellow church member, who claimed she was forced to raise money.

Experts said the church member’s allegations raise questions whether human trafficking is involved.

It did indicate some of the classic signs of human trafficking. And people who have come under religious worker visas before have sometimes been connected with human trafficking,” said local attorney Clare Hanusz.

Salinas and her lawyers have rejected the allegations, saying that the charges “never should have been filed in the first place,” but public records show a pretty shady history of the church.

In fact, former church member Kriistina Angeles, who came to Hawaii in 2014 on a religious visa, said that church leadership quickly resorted to violence when members didn’t raise enough money. She said that within days of her arrival she was forced to sell donuts for hours, “rain or shine.”

In her police statement, Angeles wrote that if church members didn’t sell enough, they were punished.

We’ve been slapped or yelled at. The last time, I … received punches over my arms and legs,” she wrote. The police report obtained by Hawaii News Now contained redacted photos of her injuries.

Angeles also wrote that while in the Philippines, she was sent to a church compound where they made her wear an “orange t-shirt” and shaved her head.

I don’t want to go back any more,” she wrote.

What happened to Angeles at the Philippine compound sounds like the textbook behavior of a powerful cult that dabbles in human trafficking, but that’s not even the scariest part. When she tried to escape from the church, she was hit with claims of sexual assault.

Angeles did run away from the church in 2015. The church initially filed a missing person’s report. And shortly after that, a 15-year-old female church member filed charges against Angeles, saying Angeles sexually assaulted her.

Trial was supposed to start next month in that case but was postponed after Salinas’ arrest.

Hanusz said that traffickers often retaliate against victims by filing questionable criminal charges.

“This is often done in trafficking. They use threats of deportation and calling law enforcement and making things up,” she said.

Based on that alone, it’s clear this church won’t go down without a fight, but there’s at least a strong case against their actions thanks to brave members willing to speak out against the leaders.

(Thanks to Sara for the link)

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