Church Accused of Using Homeless as Slave Labor

The leaders of a nationwide church have been charged with running slave labor camps involving homeless people.

In an indictment filed Tuesday, more than a dozen officials of the California-based Imperial Valley Ministries have been accused of “an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with promises of a warm bed and meals,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer says. “These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity.”

The suspects, including a pastor, were arrested Tuesday in El Centro and San Diego, as well as in Brownsvile, Texas, police say. They’ve been charged with conspiracy, forced labor, document servitude and benefits fraud, Brewer says.