Greenberg Gross LLP, working with Jeff Anderson & Associates, has filed a federal human trafficking and racketeering lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Sochil Martin against La Luz Del Mundo (“LDM”), a major global religious institution with 5 million members across 58 countries and 5 continents. The case, filed under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, and several other federal and state laws, is based on LDM’s decades-long and systematic practices of sexually abusing children and adults – including Ms. Martin – as well as using its members for forced, unpaid labor and engaging in extortion and money laundering.
As detailed in the complaint, Ms. Martin was born into the LDM organization. At the age of 9, she was given over by her aunt and foster mother to be a sexual servant of LDM’s “Apostle” Samuel Joaquín Flores – the highest authority in the organization – in what had become a standard procedure within LDM. For over two decades, she was utterly controlled and abused by Flores, his son and successor Naasón Joaquín García (currently in jail pending trial for child pornography and related crimes), and other members of LDM’s ruling elite. In addition to enduring rapes and beatings, and witnessing the similar abuse of numerous children and others, Ms. Martin was coerced into working over 30,000 hours of unpaid labor for the organization, as well as giving over virtually all of her personal wealth to LDM and the Apostles. When she finally began to break away from the group at age 30, LDM tried to buy her silence and then, when that failed, launched a virulent smear campaign against her and sent representatives – including an infamous “enforcer” – to threaten and intimidate her.
This case is one of the largest and most significant ever brought under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was enacted in 2000 to combat human trafficking and has been updated and strengthened by Congress several times. The case is also one of the first cases filed against a major religious institution under California’s Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for state law claims by survivors of childhood sexual abuse.