Alondra Ocampo was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday for assisting self-proclaimed “apostle” and leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch, Naasón Joaquín García, in sexually abusing underage girls.
Ocampo—who loudly sobbed as she listened to portions of victim statements read by family members of the children she and Garcia preyed upon—pleaded guilty in 2020 to three counts of contact with a minor for the purposes of committing a sexual offense and one count of forcible sexual penetration. At sentencing, Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen said in his 38 years on the bench, he has never ceased to be amazed at the “depravity that is committed in the name of God.”
Accused of grooming several girls who were later assaulted by García, and of coercing minors into pornographic photo shoots, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Patricia Fusco told the judge that Ocampo is “guilty of egregious criminal conduct,” but cited the 39-year-old defendant’s cooperation and early acknowledgement of guilt. Both Ocampo and prosecutors acknowledge Ocampo’s own victimization at the hands of Naasón Joaquín Garcia.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ocampo attorney Fred Thiagarajah said that Ocampo was raped at age eight by a leader of La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World). “For many, many years, she believed that the abuse that she suffered wasn’t even abuse—she thought it was a blessing,” Thiagarajah said. According to Thiagarajah, Ocampo was indoctrinated to believe García’s wishes were all that mattered.
The accusations of indoctrination are echoed by the sheer number of devotees who have stayed faithful to García and the church following his arrest. As the Associated Press reports, García addressed his congregation from the Los Angeles prison where he is currently serving a 16-year sentence. “I do not see the bars that separate me from you,” he said via telephone. “I see your beautiful faces… because you are the children of God.”
Phares Ruiz, whose family has belonged to La Luz del Mundo for three generations told AP, “The apostle always shows determination to move forward.”
Ocampo’s sentencing, meanwhile, comes just over four months after García’s own guilty plea to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child who was 15 years old. Each of the counts involved a separate minor, according to the California Attorney General’s Office, which handled the prosecution. Ocampo has remained behind bars since her June 2019 arrest and has already served the bulk of the prison term.
In addition to his prison time, García is expected to be ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The mother of one of the victims told Ocampo that she and Garcia had ruined the lives of her daughter and family. “You and Naason deceived us and lied to us,” she said in an emotional statement. “I want to tell you you’re here because you’re just as guilty as Naason was.”
But she said she was thankful that Ocampo had spoken up and pleaded guilty. In a statement read in court on her behalf, the mother of one of the victims wrote that Garcia is “not an apostle of God,” and told Ocampo that she had done “a lot of damage to my daughter.” “All that suffering that I was [a] witness of as a mother will never leave my heart,” she said in the statement.
Garcia and Ocampo were charged in June 2019 along with a third defendant, Susana Oaxaca, 27, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to assault likely to cause great bodily injury and was sentenced to one year of probation, along with time served in jail and on house arrest, plus six months of psychiatric counseling, according to the A.G.’s Office.
A state appeals court panel ordered the initial case to be dismissed in April 2020 after finding that Garcia did not waive his right to a timely hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial, and that the hearing was not held within that time.
The Attorney General’s office subsequently re-filed the case, which alleged that the crimes occurred in Southern California between June 2015 and June 2019. State prosecutors stated in the complaint that Ocampo told a group of minor girls that they were going against God if they refused any desires or wishes of Garcia.
The Guadalajara-based Pentecostal sect has branches in 50 nations and claims more than a million members worldwide. In its statement released after Garcia’s sentencing, the church said, “We publicly manifest our support for the Apostle of Jesus Christ; our confidence remains intact in the full knowledge of his integrity, his conduct and his work… The Apostle will continue ministering to the church.”