A Los Angeles paralegal has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy to violate U.S. immigration laws by preparing and filing bogus documents that sought permanent residency and citizenship for members of a Philippines-based church, prosecutors announced Friday.
Maria De Leon, 73, a resident of the Koreatown neighborhood and the owner of a legal document service, agreed to plead guilty to participating in a scheme with administrators of the church, which is known as the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name, according to the Department of Justice.
In addition to pleading guilty, De Leon agreed to cooperate in the government’s case.
De Leon admitted in the plea agreement to participating for about eight years in the conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud with the leaders of the KOJC, which has a compound in Van Nuys.
De Leon is one of nine defendants who were charged in November 2021 in a 42-count superseding indictment that alleges a labor trafficking scheme that used fraudulently obtained visas to bring KOJC members to the United States, where they were forced to solicit donations for a bogus charity.
The indictment alleges that the donations were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders.
Members who proved successful at soliciting for the KOJC were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to acquire legal status in the U.S. so they could continue soliciting donations, the indictment alleges.
The superseding indictment also alleges a sex trafficking scheme that implicates KOJC’s leader, Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, who was referred to as “The Appointed Son of God.”
De Leon is one of six defendants previously arrested in this case. The remaining five defendants who have appeared in federal court in Los Angeles are currently scheduled to be tried on March 21, 2023.
Three of the defendants, including Quiboloy, are fugitives believed to be in the Philippines, according to the DOJ.
A Los Angeles federal judge is expected to soon schedule a hearing for De Leon to formally enter her guilty plea to the conspiracy count. Once she pleads guilty, De Leon will face up to five years in federal prison, prosecutors noted.