(CNN) — A cult operating in Mexico, along the U.S. border, is accused of kidnapping and forcing victims to work and have sex, the country’s National Migration Institute said Wednesday.
Fourteen foreigners — accused by victims’ relatives of demanding “tithes” from local followers — were detained, and at least some are in the process of being deported, said the federal attorney general’s office, or PGR.
Three Mexican citizens are being held on suspicion of human trafficking, the PGR said.
Immigration authorities and police raided the Defenders of Christ group in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, the migration institute said Tuesday night. Nuevo Laredo is across the border from its sister city, Laredo, Texas.
Six of the detained foreigners were Spanish, two Brazilian, two Bolivian, two Venezuelan, one Argentinean and one Ecuadorean.
The Defenders of Christ are not officially registered as a religious organization under Mexican law.
Authorities released the name of only one of those involved with the group, Jose Arenas Losanger Segovia, a Venezuelan identified as the leader of the organization, which “was characterized by its recruiting of people at the national level.”
A website for the cult identifies Losanger as an “apostle” of the reincarnation of Christ. The group believes that a man named Ignacio Gonzalez de Arriba is the reincarnation of Jesus.
Myrna Garcia, coordinator for the Support Network for Victims of Cults, says her group first received complaints about Gonzalez in December 2011. In February 2012, the group filed a complaint with authorities about the Defenders of Christ.
Garcia called Gonzalez “very dangerous because he manipulates the minds of people to satisfy his whims.”
The accusations that the cult victims network gathered paint a picture of a man who forced people into labor without pay or threatened to deny food.
“He was able to convince them that they had to behave in certain ways to satisfy his economic and sexual needs,” Garcia said.
Women were made to have sex with the men in the group, and polygamy was promoted in the cult, Garcia said.
Women were beaten and forced to prostitute themselves, she said.
Many of the victims became suicidal and lost contact with their families and children, she said.
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By Rafael Romo and Nick Parker