On Tuesday, CNN reported that federal prosecutors have charged a dozen religious leaders in California with forced labor of homeless people.
According to prosecutors with U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer, Imperial Valley Ministries — which operates group homes and nondenominational churches around the country — took in homeless people promising food and shelter, only to force them to surrender their welfare benefits and beg for money nine hours a day, six days a week, “for the financial benefit of the church leaders.”
“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,” said Brewer in a statement. “These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity.”
Leaders of the ministry will face federal charges of conspiracy, forced labor, document servitude, and benefits fraud.