Los Angeles paralegal admits role in scheme to fraudulently obtain US legal residency for members of Philippines-based church | USAO-CDCA
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles paralegal has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy to violate U.S. immigration laws by preparing and filing fraudulent documents seeking lawful permanent residence and citizenship for members of a Philippines-based church who allegedly worked as fundraisers for a bogus church-operated charity, the Justice Department announced today.
In a plea agreement filed today in United States District Court, Maria De Leon, 73, a resident of the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles and owner of Liberty Legal Document Services, agreed to plead guilty to having participated in a scheme with church administrators. , known as the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above All Names (KOJC).
In addition to pleading guilty, De Leon agreed to cooperate in the government’s case.
De Leon admitted in the plea agreement to having participated for approximately eight years in the conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud with KOJC leaders.
“At the time [De Leon] completed immigration paperwork for some KOJC members, [she] knew that the immigration documents were based on false representations of the bona fides of the underlying marriages” made by church officials, according to the plea agreement.
De Leon admitted to submitting fraudulent “foreign relative applications” and related documents on behalf of KOJC members knowing or believing that the marriages were arranged for the purpose of obtaining favorable immigration status for a spouse.
De Leon is one of nine defendants who were charged in November 2021 in a 42-count replacement indictment that alleges a labor trafficking scheme that used fraudulently obtained visas to bringing KOJC members to the United States, where they were forced to solicit donations for a bogus charity – the Glendale-based Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF). The indictment alleges the donations were used to fund church operations and the lavish lifestyle of its leaders.
Members who successfully solicited KOJC were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to gain legal status in the United States so they could continue to solicit donations, according to the act of ‘charge. Many workers were moved across the United States to solicit donations as CJF “volunteers,” also known as Full Time Miracle Workers, according to the indictment, which alleges that these “workers raised funds for KOJC almost every day, all year round, working very long hours and often sleeping in cars at night.
The indictment that replaces it also alleges a sex trafficking scheme that implicates KOJC leader Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, who was dubbed “God’s Appointed Son.”
De Leon is one of six defendants previously arrested in the case. The other five defendants who appeared in federal court in Los Angeles are currently scheduled for trial on March 21, 2023.
Three of the defendants, including Quiboloy, are fugitives believed to be in the Philippines.
The court is expected to hold a hearing soon for De Leon to formally enter his guilty plea to the conspiracy charge. Once she pleads guilty, De Leon will face a maximum statutory sentence of five years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that an accused has committed a crime. All accused are presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
As part of the investigation, the FBI encourages potential victims or anyone with information about KOJC’s activities to contact investigators. Those with information are asked to call the FBI field office in Los Angeles at (310) 477-6565. Individuals can also contact the FBI through its website at https://www.fbi.gov/tips.
The investigation of KOJC’s activities is led by the FBI, which receives substantial assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the National Security and Fraud Detection Unit of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. United States, the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the IRS Criminal Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel H. Ahn, Jake D. Nare, and Benjamin D. Lichtman of the Santa Ana Branch, as well as Assistant United States Special Counsel Angela C. Makabali of the General Crimes Section, are continuing this case. Assistant United States Attorney Katharine Schonbachler of the Asset Forfeiture Section is also working on the matter.