Naasón Joaquín García: Megachurch Leader Sentenced To Jail For Sexual Abuse AlexRamos/Pixabay

The leader of the Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in a California prison for the sexual abuse of three girls from his congregation. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Superior Court sentenced Naason Joaquin Garcia after pleading guilty last week to three felony charges.

The 53-year-old leader admitted to multiple charges including rape, forcible oral copulation, performing a lewd act on a child, human trafficking, and child pornography. He entered his pleas right before he was to stand trial for 23 felony counts of sex crimes against children.

Prosecutors dismissed the majority of his charges which included most of his serious offenses. He accepted the plea deal because he believed he would not be provided a fair trial citing how the evidence against him had been withheld and altered. Garcia was charged along with two other church associates who both entered into separate deals after pleading guilty to their crimes, Reuters reported.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Cohen handed the sentence to Garcia while his co-defendant, Susana Medina Oaxaca received one-year probation along with six months of psychiatric counseling. The second co-defendant Alondra Ocampo was not yet sentenced while a fourth person believed to be involved in the case, Azalea Rangel Melendez remains at large.

Emotional Impact statements from victims included five young women who accused Garcia of sexual abuse with one woman who identified herself as Garcia’s niece stated, “I worshipped my abuser. He used me over and over again like a sacrificial lamb taken to the slaughter.”

Meanwhile, the victims voiced their objections to the plea deal saying they were not consulted about this. They complained the sentences were too lenient and called on Cohen to impose stiffer sentences on the accused. However, the judge said his hands are tied to the plea agreement.

The self-styled apostle of the Guadalajara-based church faced the court and made no statement during the proceedings and stood quietly as the judge passed his sentence. The sentencing brings to a close the investigation which began in 2018 that led to Garcia’s arrest at the Los Angeles Airport in 2019. With over 5 million members to date spanning 50 countries, La Luz del Mundo church still stands as the largest evangelical church in Mexico.

Representation Image Pastor Sermon Church Congregation weldert/Pixabay