LOS ANGELES, Aug 7 — The leader of a Mexican-based church that claims over one million followers worldwide was ordered yesterday to remain held on US$90 million (RM377.57 million), nearly double his original bail, on newly expanded charges of rape, human trafficking and child pornography.
The ruling virtually assures that Naason Joaquin Garcia, 51, the head and self-styled apostle of the Guadalajara-based evangelical church La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World), will remain in custody as he awaits trial.
The decision to raise his bond from US$50 million came four months after the original charges against him were ordered dismissed by an appeals court on grounds that Garcia was denied his right to a speedy preliminary hearing in the high-profile case.
But he has remained incarcerated during subsequent legal proceedings, and last Thursday the California Attorney General's Office filed a new criminal complaint charging Garcia and two co-defendants with 36 felony offences, 10 more than they previously faced, including additional rape counts.
While bail for Garcia was increased, the Los Angeles County Superior Court judge lowered bond for an accused accomplice, Alondra Ocampo, from US$25 million to US$10 million. A third defendant in the case, Susana Medina Oaxaca, remained free on bail, while a fourth, Azalea Rangel Melendez, was still at large.
No pleas have been entered to the newly filed case. But Garcia and the others have maintained their innocence, as has the church in a statement released after the latest charges were brought. — Reuters