Controversial Mexican Religious Leader Arrested In U.S.

By Rodrigo Cervantes
Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - 4:50pm
Updated: Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 8:12am
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MEXICO CITY — The leader of a Mexican-based church with presence in many American cities, including Phoenix, was arrested Tuesday in the United States on 26 charges, including child rape.

La Iglesia de la Luz del Mundo, or the Church of the Light of the World, claims to have millions of followers and is headquartered in Guadalajara. Its leader, Naasón Joaquín García, was detained at the Los Angeles airport.

García, considered a living apostle of Jesus by its church, is accused of child rape, child pornography and human trafficking by the California Attorney General’s Office. He was arrested with two other women, while a third one, Azalea Rangel Meléndez, is on the run.

According to the California Attorney General’s Office, García and his co-defendants allegedly coerced victims into performing sexual acts by telling them that if they went against the desires of “the apostle,” that they were going against God.

La Luz del Mundo was the center of a recent controversy in Mexico City, where authorities allowed the church to use the historic theater, el Palacio de Bellas Artes, for a private celebration of García’s birthday.