Leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch, Naasón Joaquín García, has been sentenced in a Los Angeles court to 16 years and eight months in prison, oyogist reports.
García, 53, pleaded guilty last week to three counts of s*xually abusing girls from his congregation.
His plea deal means his sentence is considerably shorter than the life imprisonment he could have faced had he been found guilty in a trial.
To his followers, Naasón Joaquín García is known as “the Apostle”.
His church shared a statement [in Spanish] on Twitter in which it expresses its continued “support for the Apostle of Jesus Christ” and praised his “integrity, his conduct and his work”.
The statement alleges that that evidence García had been fabricated and that he accepted the plea deal “as the best way to protect the church and his family”.
A fundamentalist Christian organisation, La Luz del Mundo (meaning The Light of the World in Spanish) was founded in Mexico in 1926 by García’s grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González.
The church’s influence has spread in recent years and is strong in parts of California that have large Hispanic populations, which García often visited.
He was arrested at Los Angeles airport in 2019 along with two of his female followers as they arrived by private jet.
The church says it has baptised more than five million people worldwide, but independently verified numbers of its followers are hard to come by.