FBI investigates Waipahu church for alleged human trafficking

Church linked to aggressive fundraising under investigation for human trafficking
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The FBI is investigating a controversial church that's been accused of aggressive fundraising in Hawaii, Hawaii News Now has learned.

The investigation is taking a close look at the church's business manager, Felina Salinas, who was arrested by federal authorities last month on allegations of trying to smuggle $350,000 in cash out of the U.S.

She was arrested on a plane leased by the head of the church Apollo Quiboloy, a Filipino televangelist and friend of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Shortly after Salinas' arrest, the sources said that the FBI sent an agent from it Los Angeles office, who spent several days here pursuing the trafficking angle.

Salinas was previously arrested in 2015 for allegedly assaulting a fellow church member, who claimed she was forced to raise money.

Experts said the church member's allegations raise questions whether human trafficking is involved.

"It did indicate some of the classic signs of human trafficking. And people who have come under religious worker visas before have sometimes been connected with human trafficking," said local attorney Clare Hanusz.

But Salinas' attorney said the allegations had no merit.

"The next morning when she appeared before a judge the state dismissed the charges and they never should have been filed in the first place," said lawyer Michael Green.

The police documents were obtained by Hawaii News Now under the states' open records law and were loaned to the HPD to the FBI back in 2016 as part of their investigation.

In those documents, the alleged victim and former church member Kristina Angeles said she came to Hawaii in October 2014 on a religious visa.

She claims that within days she was put to work on church fundraisers selling "manapua and Krispy Kreme" donuts for hours, "rain or shine."

Consumers have accused the church's charity, the Children's Joy Foundation, of aggressive fundraising and even misrepresentation. Young church members are often seen selling baked goods at the Kapolei Costco and near White Plains Beach.

In her police statement, Angeles wrote that if church members didn't sell enough, they were punished.

"We've been slapped or yelled at. The last time, I … received punches over my arms and legs," she wrote. The police report obtained by Hawaii News Now contained redacted photos of her injuries.

Angeles also wrote that while in the Philippines, she was sent to a church compound where they made her wear an "orange t-shirt" and shaved her head.

"I don't want to go back any more," she wrote.

Angeles did run away from the church in 2015. The church initially filed a missing person's report. And shortly after that, a 15-year-old female church member filed charges against Angeles, saying Angeles sexually assaulted her.

Trial was supposed to start next month in that case but was postponed after Salinas' arrest.

Hanusz said that traffickers often retaliate against victims by filing questionable criminal charges.

"This is often done in trafficking. They use threats of deportation and calling law enforcement and making things up," she said.

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