FBI raid leads to arrests of Van Nuys church leaders in immigration fraud case

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- FBI agents moved in early Wednesday morning, surrounding the compound at the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church.

Leaders of the church are accused of immigration fraud and human trafficking: bringing people from the Philippines and once here they would be forced to work collecting money.

"The belief is that they were arranging for visas and also sham marriages," said Laura Eimiller from the FBI. "(The victims) thought they would be maybe conducting concerts, things like that, and then when they got here they would take their passports from them and they would force them to solicit funds."

The FBI says victims were kept in compounds. One woman who works in the area and didn't want to be identified said she always saw big trucks bringing a lot people back and forth. She claims they would leave early in the morning and come back late in the evening.

Maria Linares says the church was always closed. She says she saw a lot of vehicles go in and out, and everybody stayed inside, which she thought was unusual.

Officials say the the church claimed the money collected was to help children, but instead it went to fund the church.

"Millions of dollars, I believe $20 million we've at least established at this point, has been sent to the Philippines, and most of that we believe has gone to the lavish lifestyle of the leaders of this organization in the Philippines," says Eimiller.

Three people were arrested in Van Nuys Wednesday, and the FBI is interviewing a number of victims who were found inside the compound.

FBI officials believe there are other potential victims out there. Anyone with information about this church Is asked to call the FBI at (800) CALL-FBI.
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