Southwest US Church Leaders Accused of Building Empire on Captive and Enslaved Homeless Labor

Church Leaders Homeless Labor

(TMU) — Southern California Christian ministry leaders are facing severe criminal charges from prosecutors who allege that they systematically kept homeless people and recovering drug addicts in captivity, subject them to forced labor and threatened to seize their children if they don’t bend to the will of church leaders.

Long considered an open secret on the streets of California’s cities, homeless victims are alleged by prosecutors to have been subjected to severe rights violations, as well as charges of conspiracy, benefits fraud, and document servitude.

A dozen leaders from Imperial Valley Ministries (IVM) in El Centro faced arraignment in a federal court on Wednesday for their exploitation of rehabilitating drug addicts through its network of faith-based group homes in the state.

Church leader and former pastor Victor Gonzalez, 40, of Brownsville, Texas, and his 39-year-old wife, Susan Christine Leyva, were among those charged.

Homeless people selling candy or begging for donations to sponsor their “recovery” or “rescue” missions have been a common sight in the Golden State for years. As AP reports:

“The leader of a Southern California ministry charged with using deadbolt locks to detain homeless residents and making them turn over panhandling money was no fly-by-night operator. Imperial Valley Ministries was known in the remote desert region for decades of work helping drug addicts turn their lives around.”

In addition to operating five group homes in Southern California, IVM church leaders also control around 30 churches throughout the U.S. and Mexico. Locations included Los Angeles; San Jose, California; Phoenix; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; Louisville, Kentucky; and Memphis, Tennessee, reports AP.

At a press conference, Robert Brewer, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California said:

“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.

These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity.”


Since 2013, victims in California and neighboring states were allegedly lured to the homes with promises of free food, shelter, and emotional and spiritual support meant to get them back on to their feet.

Participants were forced to surrender all belongings as well as their passports, drivers’ licenses and documents before being cut off from their families and locked into their rooms with doors nailed shut or sealed with multiple deadbolts, the indictment said.

Leaders at the non-denominational Christian church also forced homeless people to beg for donations for nine hours per day, six days per week.

A list of 29 rules forced adult victims to live in cult-like isolation from the outside world. Rules included a ban on adult victims leaving group homes alone and a ban on communicating with family members or even making phone calls in general because “only God loved them now,” the ministry claimed.

“You can’t go to the front yard, unless told so by the counselor,” the rules read. In some cases, those who entertained notions that they could leave were told that the ministry would snatch their children.

Residents’ shower time was restricted to five minutes while victims were instructed to “at no time” lock their bathroom doors. The list even demands that “you are not to discuss things of the world.”

The leaders also took the money that was gathered by participants and even stole the victims’ welfare benefits and food stamps or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) cards, prosecutors claim. Prosecutors say that one diabetic resident was refused food or medicine for their low blood sugar.

Another rule explained:

“If receiving any income, 10 per cent will go to tithes, 30 per cent to the home…and the rest will be put away for you by the director.”

“None of the above rules apply to the pastor or his family,” the list added.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office said:

“Windows were nailed shut at some group home locations, leading a desperate 17-year-old victim to break a window, escape, and run to a neighboring property to call police.”

FBI Special Agent Scott Brunner announced:

“Human trafficking robs victims of their most basic human rights.

Victims of human trafficking are often unseen by society, left pleading in silence.

Today, the FBI is proud to break up the labor trafficking alleged to have been committed by the leaders of Imperial Valley Ministries in Imperial Valley and San Diego.”

U.S. Attorney Brewer remarked:

“This is the most significant labor trafficking prosecution in this district in many years.

[Prosecuted] cases are few and far between because many victims live in captivity and fear, powerless to report the crimes against them.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons |

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Tips to Successfully File a Sexual Harassment Complaint at Work

Brought to you by The Sattiraju Law Firm, P.C.:

Sexual harassment is one of the toughest challenges that organizations grapple with today. However, it’s essential to note that despite the fact that it is mostly perpetrated against female workers, male workers also fall victim. Either way, the effects are no doubt catastrophic to organizations and the victims as well.

A poll conducted in 2017 by ABC, revealed that an estimated 33 million women fell victim to sexual harassment in their…

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Rainbow Veggie Rolls with Ginger Avocado Dressing

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento®.  The opinions and text are all mine.

These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love about summer is the large abundance of colorful produce everywhere I go which makes me want to eat ALL the healthy things, and these rainbow veggie rolls just scream summer!  They’re so bright and vibrant with fresh crunchy veggies in every bite and this ginger avocado dressing is seriously to die for!  Trust me on this.

The great thing about these rolls is that you can either make them bite size to serve as a fun appetizer or you can make an entire wrap out of them for a delicious, filling lunch.  Either way, they are quick and easy to throw together and packed with tons of flavor thanks to a creamy hummus spread and Sargento® Sliced Sharp Cheddar Cheese!

These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

As a self-proclaimed cheese lover, I always make sure to include slices of delicious cheese on my sandwiches and wraps and Sargento Sharp Cheddar Cheese slices give these veggie rolls some added zing and a pop of bold flavor!  Sargento Slices are 100% Real, Natural Cheese so you know you’re getting the GOOD stuff. Lucky for us, sharp cheddar isn’t the only delicious flavor Sargento has to offer.  I was also able to snag some Sargento Ultra Thin Provolone Cheese Slices and Sargento Blends 4 Cheese Southwest Slices at Harris Teeter for even more lunch ideas!

For instance, you could make a delicious Italian turkey wrap using Sargento Ultra Thin Provolone Cheese Slices along with some spicy salami, juicy tomatoes, and freshly made pesto.  These cheese slices are sliced super thin and have a mild, smoky flavor that adds the perfect taste to sandwiches, burgers or pitas.  Another lunch idea could be a spicy Mexican chicken wrap using Sargento Blends 4 Cheese Southwest Slices which are creamy in texture and have the perfect blend of Chipotle Cheddar, Colby and Pepper Jack cheeses.  I mean…YUM.  These are just a few delicious meal ideas using these cheese slices, but the possibilities are endless!  Feel free to check out even more delicious recipe ideas here!

You can find all these Sargento cheese varieties in the dairy/cheese section of your local Harris Teeter and make sure to use THIS coupon offer to save even more!  This coupon will be valid from 8/28/19 through 9/24/19 so take advantage now!

These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

You guys, these rainbow veggie rolls are super easy to make too!  No cooking required and the only time-consuming thing is the chopping and slicing required for the veggies, but hey, I just throw on my favorite playlist and enjoy my time in the kitchen.  Meal prepping has become such an important part of my life, so I like to make it fun!  These veggie-packed rainbow rolls make a really great lunch option that you can prep at home too, especially for those of you that don’t have access to a microwave.

To assemble these, you first start with a whole grain tortilla and some leafy green lettuce.  Then spread as much (or as little) of your favorite hummus on top of the lettuce leaves.  I used roasted red pepper hummus on my rolls, but you could of course use whatever kind you like!  Then top the hummus with Sargento Sliced Sharp Cheddar Cheese slices, then finish it off with all of your veggies.  That’s it!  Easy right??  The ginger avocado dressing makes the perfect dipping sauce for these rolls or you could simply drizzle the dressing over the top.

These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

Here’s a rundown of all the colorful veggies I used in this wrap, but remember this is obviously for YOU to enjoy so feel free to change things up a bit and add any additional veggies that you would prefer!

  • Red bell pepper slices
  • English cucumber slices
  • Shredded red cabbage
  • Matchstick carrots
  • Broccoli sprouts

Other veggie options include asparagus, red, white or green onions, tomatoes, other types of lettuce such as spinach or arugula, and you could even add some fresh fruit or a protein to this such as chicken or shrimp!  Rice or quinoa would taste great as well.  You really can’t go wrong when making this and once everything is chopped, you can easily assemble this in about one minute!

These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

You can also easily make these low carb by simply using lettuce as your base for a wrap!

These Rainbow Veggie Rolls can be prepped the night before by chopping all of your veggies ahead of time, then just assembling them the next day.  You can also make the ginger avocado dressing the night before too and it will last up to 3 or 4 days if kept in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge.  I must admit these rolls do taste best immediately after making, but they can also be chilled for a few hours just fine in the fridge if you’re packing them for lunch.

Hope you all enjoy these bright and crunchy Rainbow Veggie Rolls as much as we did and please let me know if you make this recipe!  Don’t forget to leave your comments below or tag me on Instagram using the hashtag #eatyourselfskinnyrecipe so I can see all your delicious food!

Rainbow Veggie Rolls with Ginger Avocado Dressing
Serves: 4 Servings

  • 4 (8 inch) multigrain tortillas
  • 8 large leafy green lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup of your favorite hummus
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup each thinly sliced red bell pepper, thinly sliced cucumber, shredded purple cabbage, matchstick carrots and sprouts
For the Dressing:
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ to ½ cup water (depending on consistency)
  • Pinch of salt

  1. To assemble the rolls, top each tortilla with 2 lettuce leaves, ¼ cup hummus, 1 slice of cheddar cheese and divide the veggies evenly among the wraps. Tightly roll up the tortilla, securing with a toothpick if desired, and slice into 4 rolls or in half to enjoy as a wrap.
  2. To make the dressing: Combine the avocado, ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until combined. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and water until smooth and you have your desired consistency.
  3. Drizzle your rolls with the ginger avocado dressing or store in a sealed airtight container until ready to eat. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 1 wrap • Calories: 295 • Fat: 9.6 g • Saturated Fat: 2 g • Carbs: 28.2 g • Fiber: 5.9 g • Protein: 18.2 g • Sugar: 4 g • WW Freestyle Points: 7


These colorful Rainbow Veggie Rolls are healthy, crunchy and loaded with tons of fresh veggies along with a delicious Ginger Avocado Dressing for dipping or drizzling!

The post Rainbow Veggie Rolls with Ginger Avocado Dressing appeared first on Eat Yourself Skinny.

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