Child rape charges refiled against Mexican megachurch leader

California

The exterior of a La Luz del Mundo church branch is seen Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Los Angeles. California’s top prosecutor said Thursday that he believes there are more victims of child sex abuse than those listed in charges against the leader of Mexico-based megachurch La Luz del Mundo and several followers. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California on Wednesday charged the leader of a Mexican megachurch with child rape and human trafficking, months after a court dismissed the previous allegations because of prosecution errors.

Naasón Joaquín García, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, was charged with three dozen felony counts.

FILE – In this June 5, 2019, file photo, Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of fundamentalist Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo, appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court. California on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, charged the leader of a Mexican megachurch with child rape and human trafficking, months after a court dismissed the previous allegations because of prosecution errors. García, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, was charged with three dozen felony counts (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Also charged were Susana Medina Oaxaca and Alondra Ocampo.

Prosecutors contend the three committed sex crimes and also produced child pornography involving five women and girls who were church group members. The crimes took place between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County, authorities said.

García is the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light Of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based evangelical Christian church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.

García and Ocampo already were being held in custody in Los Angeles County while prosecutors decided whether to refile charges. He was rebooked on $50 million bail and Ocampo was booked on $25 million bail, while Oaxaca remained free on bail, according to the California attorney general’s office.

Messages to their attorneys seeking comment weren’t immediately returned but García has previously denied wrongdoing.

In April, an appeals court ordered Los Angeles Superior Court to dismiss charges against García, ruling that his preliminary hearing was not held in a timely manner and he did not waive his right to one.

His hearing was postponed several times — in some instances, because prosecutors had not turned over evidence to the defense.

The refiled charges accuse García and Ocampo of committing a lewd act on a 15-year-old girl. García fondled the girl in his office, authorities said.

The two also are accused of raping and committing forced oral copulation with a second girl. All three defendants are accused of committing forced oral copulation with a third girl.

García was charged with raping two others. Ocampo took part in one rape, authorities said.

Susana Medina Oaxaca appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday, June 21, 2019. Naasón Joaquín García and his co-defendants, Oaxaca and Alondra Ocampo, not seen, were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of child rape, statutory rape, molestation, human trafficking, child pornography and extortion. The charges in the 26-count felony complaint detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Oaxaca is charged with two counts of committing forced and illegal copulation on a minor.

Among other allegations, Ocampo is accused of having some church group members send explicit photos or pose for explicit photos that were intended for Garcia. In one case, prosecutors allege Ocampo told a group of underage girls to take off their clothes and touch each other sexually in order to send photographs to García.

The girls were told that if they “if they went against any desires or wishes of the Apostle′ … that they were going against” God, according to the indictment.

Alondra Ocampo appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court behind a glass window, on Friday, June 21, 2019. Naasón Joaquín García and his co-defendants Ocampo, Susana Medina Oaxaca, not seen, were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of child rape, statutory rape, molestation, human trafficking, child pornography and extortion. The charges in the 26-count felony complaint detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The charges also include human trafficking by procuring a child to engage in a lewd act, conspiracy to commit human trafficking for production of child pornography, production of child pornography, extortion of the victims and unlawful sexual intercourse.

A fourth defendant, Azalea Rangel Melendez, previously was charged with rape and forcible oral copulation and is a fugitive.

Sochil Martin, center, with lawyers Jeff Anderson, left, and Deborah Mallgrave, speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Martin has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the leaders of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo sexually abused her since she was 12 years old. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

In February, a Southern California woman filed a federal lawsuit against the church and García. In it, she said García, 50, and his father sexually abused her for 18 years starting when she was 12, manipulating Bible passages to convince her the mistreatment actually was a gift from God.

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Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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