Jun 4, 2022
The former leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo was convicted on multiple felony sexual assault counts involving minors, according to a local FOX 11 Los Angeles report.
Naasón Joaquín García, 53, reportedly pleaded guilty Friday to three felony sexual assault charges:
“Today’s conviction sends a clear message that sexual exploitation is never acceptable in California. We will hold you accountable if you break the law,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said after Garcia’s plea was announced.
“As the leader of La Luz del Mundo, Naasón Joaquín García used his power to take advantage of children. He relied on those around him to groom congregants for the purposes of sexual assault. Today’s conviction can never undo the harm, but it will help protect future generations. I am incredibly grateful to our team at the California Department of Justice for their dedication to securing justice and fighting abuse on behalf of the people of California. We will always stand with Californians against injustice,” Bonta added.
The conviction of Naasón Joaquín García comes only days before a trial which was scheduled to begin on Monday.
Garcia’s sentencing is reportedly scheduled for June 8 at 8:30 a.m.
Garcia, along with La Luz del Mundo leader Susana Medina Oaxaca, was arrested in 2019 at the Los Angeles International Airport after departing a private jet upon arrival in the U.S. The arrest was the culmination of a multiyear investigation led by the California Department of Justice which began in 2018.
Alondra Ocampo, another La Luz del Mundo leader, was also arrested separately in 2019.
“Over the course of the investigation and prosecution, prosecutors demonstrated that García’s criminal conduct was enabled by the individuals surrounding him and that García used his position of trust and authority as the leader of La Luz del Mundo to sexually abuse children,” FOX 11 reported.
Oaxaca also pleaded guilty Friday, receiving a conviction of assault likely to cause great bodily injury.
In 2020, Ocampo pleaded guilty to multiple charges:
Ocampo will be sentenced at a later date, according to FOX 11. Both García and Ocampo are currently being held in custody.
A fourth La Luz del Mundo megachurch leader, Azalea Rangel Melendez, currently remains at large.
Naasón Joaquín García is the self-proclaimed “apostle” of Jesus Christ. He became leader of Mexico’s La Luz del Mundo megachurch in 2014, following the death of his father.
La Luz del Mundo reportedly has a devoted congregation of 5 million followers worldwide.
García’s sex crimes against minors are believed to have occurred throughout Southern California between June 2015 and June 2019.
In the Spring of 2020, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the charges against Garcia – which included child rape, human trafficking, and child pornography – were to be dismissed. In essence, the Appeals Court ruled that the lower court and the attorney general’s office violated Mr. Garcia’s speedy trial due process rights by not providing him with a timely preliminary hearing.
In August 2020, however, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen found sufficient evidence to allow the case against Garcia to proceed, ordering him to stand trial on 23 criminal charges, including:
That same month, Diana Callaghan, a deputy attorney general for California, indicated that sexual assault survivors had been subjected to “threats and intimidation” from La Luz del Mundo representatives. While multiple underage survivors reportedly named Garcia and his La Luz del Mundo associates in the criminal trial, authorities noted in 2020 that they believed numerous additional victims had yet to come forward.
In October 2020, the extortion charges against Garcia were dropped in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing insufficient evidence. However, Judge Stephen A. Marcus denied a motion by Garcia’s defense attorneys to dismiss the case against their client entirely, leaving in place multiple charges (including human trafficking, forcible rape of a minor, and possession of child pornography).
In California, sexual assault civil claims may be filed regardless of whether or not any criminal charges are brought or handed down. However, in the case of Naasón Joaquín García, his guilty plea may help the countless survivors with pending civil lawsuits against him and the church obtain the justice they deserve.
As Dordulian Law Group’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, notes, Garcia’s guilty plea and conviction will likely be a point of focus for attorneys such as himself who are representing survivors in ongoing civil lawsuits.
“We’ve always felt that our cases against Garcia on behalf of survivors were strong, with merit, and would lead to successful outcomes. But I think hearing of his guilty plea and conviction will only further embolden survivors with pending lawsuits and potentially, hopefully, inspire additional victims to come forward and report past abuse,” Dordulian said after the conviction was announced.
Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is currently representing survivors of Garcia in two separate cases, pursuing justice and maximum financial compensation on their behalf.
If you were sexually abused by Naasón Joaquín García or another La Luz del Mundo leader, our SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts) is available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about filing a civil claim for damages.
We are here to provide you with support and, if you wish to move forward, expert legal representation in a civil lawsuit against Garcia and La Luz del Mundo.
Survivors who choose DLG receive four-tiered SAJE Team representation featuring:
For adult sexual assault survivors, the California statute of limitations on sex crimes allows you to file a civil claim up to 10 years after an incident. In addition, the statute of limitations for adult sex crimes allows for a three-year window in civil claims where sexual assaults lead to the discovery of a psychological injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The California statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse crimes is temporarily paused under Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218). AB 218, which took effect on January 1, 2020, tolls (pauses) the statute of limitations on all childhood sexual abuse through the end of 2022.
While AB 218 is in effect, any survivor of childhood sexual abuse or assault may file a civil claim seeking financial compensation through the end of the year. However, as of January 1, 2023, the standard statute of limitations will resume, and survivors who did not file claims will likely be left without any future legal recourse or ability to pursue financial compensation.
California AB 218 includes a treble damages clause which allows the courts latitude to triple financial damages awards in cases where cover-ups are proven.
For example, if you are a sexual abuse survivor who was victimized through a systemic cover-up (at either an individual or institutional level), and that wrongdoing was proved in court, a $10 million damages award could theoretically be increased to $30 million under the AB 218 treble damages clause.
AB 218’s treble damages clause was included in the bill in an effort to severely punish bad actors who participated in systemic cover-ups (e.g. the Boy Scouts of America and Catholic Church). Despite rampant sexual abuse at a systemic level in many major American organizations, AB 218 currently offers all survivors an opportunity at justice.
For additional information on California AB 218, please visit our recent blog post.
DLG is a proven California-based firm with decades of experience successfully handling childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual assault claims. We represent survivors throughout California as well as across the United States and have helped countless clients secure maximum financial damages awards.
Some of our recent sex crime civil lawsuit victories include:
DLG’s sex crime attorneys have helped victims recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record. When you’re ready to pursue justice for a past sexual assault on your own terms, we’re here to fight as your dedicated legal advocates.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.