La Luz del Mundo leader indicted on new federal sex charges

Naason Joaquin Garcia (R), the leader of a Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo evangelical church, along with his defense attorney Ken Rosenfeld (L), attend a bail review hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court on July 15.
Naasón Joaquín García, right, the leader of La Luz del Mundo evangelical church, attends a July hearing at L.A. County Superior Court in July with his defense attorney Ken Rosenfeld. (Al Seib / Pool Photo)

For the record:
4:29 p.m. Oct. 30, 2023: An earlier version of this story reported that the La Luz del Mundo leader had previously struck a plea deal with Los Angeles County prosecutors. The plea deal was struck with the California Attorney General’s office.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted Naasón Joaquín García on two child pornography counts, in yet another legal challenge for the head of the Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo megachurch who is already serving a 17-year state prison sentence for sexually abusing girls from his congregation.

García was indicted this week on a single count of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. The indictment comes in connection with sexual acts allegedly committed by García on a 16-year-old victim whom he "knowingly employed, used, persuaded, induced, enticed, and coerced" and recorded, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Five videos were discovered on an iPad seized by authorities during García's arrest on state charges at LAX in June 2019.

If convicted of both federal charges, García could face up to 40 years in prison, the release said.

Read more: Followers of Luz del Mundo 'apostle' say they'll wait out his sex-abuse sentence

Garcia, who is considered by congregants to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, pleaded guilty last year to committing acts of sexual abuse against girls from his community and was sentenced as part of a last-minute plea agreement with the California Attorney General's office.

He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in the next few weeks.

The 54-year-old previously served as a minister for the evangelical church in Santa Ana and in 2014 took over the church in Mexico. Garcia's father and grandfather previously led the church, which was founded in 1926 and claims to have more than 5 million followers in about 50 countries across the globe.

Despite his guilty plea in state court, Garcia has maintained almost universal support within the church. His backers denounced the case as an attempt to tarnish his reputation and promised to continue supporting Garcia during his incarceration.

The church leader addressed them via phone from prison last September, saying "he did not see the bars that separate me from you," according to an Associated Press report.

Read more: La Luz del Mundo dissidents pressure authorities, seek more charges against 'apostle'

At the time of Garcia’s plea deal, some alleged survivors of sexual abuse in the church called it a “slap to the face," even as prosecutors hailed the outcome. Some said they felt Garcia was treated leniently and worried about the potential chilling effect on other victims who may be reluctant to report assaults after watching how others had become targets of intimidation and harassment by church loyalists.

A docu-series released last year explored the history and power of the church, interviewing former church members who described enduring years of abuse in silence at the hands of La Luz leaders.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.