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The Latest: Mexican church blasts charges against leader

1 year 4 months 3 weeks ago Tuesday, June 04 2019 Jun 4, 2019 June 04, 2019 6:27 PM June 04, 2019 in News - AP Texas Headlines

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Latest on the arrest of La Luz del Mundo's leader and self-proclaimed apostle (all times local):

5:25 p.m.

A controversial Mexico-based church decried accusations of human trafficking and child rape against its leader Tuesday, calling them "false."

Charges filed in Los Angeles allege that Joaquín García, the head of La Luz Del Mundo and its self-proclaimed apostle, and others coerced underage victims into performing sex acts by telling them that refusing would be going against God.

David Correa, a spokesman from the headquarters of La Luz del Mundo in Guadalajara, Jalisco, said in a phone call that they learned about the charges from the media and they are waiting for official information.

"We categorically deny those false accusations," Correa said. "We know him personally and he is an honorable and honest man."

The church, whose name translates to The Light of the World, has been the subject of child sex abuse allegations for years.

AP journalist Maria Verza contributed reporting from Mexico.

4:30 p.m.

California authorities have charged the leader and self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz Del Mundo - a church based in Mexico that claims over 1 million followers - with child rape.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday that Joaquín García has been arrested and charged with committing 26 felonies in Southern California between 2015 and 2018. The charges also include human trafficking and producing child pornography.

Charges filed in Los Angeles allege that García and others coerced underage victims into performing sex acts by telling them that refusing would be going against God.

García was being held on $25 million bail. It wasn't immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

The church has been the subject of child sex abuse allegations for years but authorities there have never filed criminal charges.

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