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Los Angeles paralegal to plead guilty to immigration fraud

April 3, 2022 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles paralegal has agreed to plead guilty to helping a Philippines-based church commit immigration fraud by setting up sham marriages, prosecutors said

Maria De Leon, 73, could be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Victims of the immigration fraud were forced to solicit donations in the U.S. to finance the lavish lifestyle of leaders of the church called Kingdom of Jesus Christ, federal prosecutors said in court documents.

As a part of a plea deal, De Leon has agreed to cooperate in the federal government’s case against the church’s administrators, including its founder, Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, the Times said.

A federal grand jury in November indicted Quiboloy on charges of having sex with women and underage girls who faced threats of abuse and “eternal damnation.”

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Quiboloy and three other church administrators are fugitives and are believed to still be in the Philippines, according to federal prosecutors. Quiboloy was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list earlier this year.

According to her plea agreement, De Leon filed fraudulent paperwork in at least 10 separate instances between 2013 and 2020 on behalf of the church’s members, entering them into sham marriages with other followers who already have U.S. citizenship.