Imperial Valley Ministries Perfidy

Aug 19, 2003
Yet another crooked church, The Scientologists also use vulnerable people as slave labour but they get away with it.

The leaders of a California based-church have been accused of imprisoning homeless people, forcing them to beg all day and taking the money.

Dozens of victims had their papers taken, their welfare benefits stolen and were punished if they spoke of "things of the world", officials say. Imperial Valley Ministries (IVM) operates about 30 affiliate church groups in the US and Mexico. A dozen of the group's leaders were arrested on Tuesday. The former pastor of Imperial Valley Ministries, Victor Gonzalez, was detained in San Diego. Eleven others were held in El Centro, California, and Brownsville, Texas. The defendants are facing charges of conspiracy, forced labour, document servitude and benefits fraud.

The church, which represents its pastors as "missionaries to drug addicts", lured victims by promising them food and shelter and opportunities to get back on their feet at "no cost", federal officials say.

"The indictment alleges an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with promises of a warm bed and meals," the lead prosecutor, US Attorney Robert Brewer, said at a news conference after the arrests.