LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge set bail at $90 million for the leader of a Mexican megachurch charged in California with child rape and human trafficking, according to a newspaper report.
The staggering bail amount set Thursday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli all but ensures that Naasón Joaquín García, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, will remain jailed as he awaits trial, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Garcia’s attorneys had asked the judge to reduce the $50 million bail imposed last year, when Garcia was first charged with sex crimes. Setting bail at $50 million was the functional equivalent of denying it, his attorneys argued, because no surety company could legally underwrite so large a bond.
Instead, Lomeli raised it by $40 million.
Citing testimony from an agent who investigated Garcia and messages retrieved from seized phones, Lomeli said he had seen evidence of “a systematic pattern of sexual assault of minors,” the Times reported.
Garcia faces three dozen felony counts. He has denied wrongdoing.
Garcia is the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light Of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based evangelical Christian church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.