Brazil branches of US-based church aim of countless probes

October 10, 2017 - photo frame

When workers done a mistake, such as slicing a support too short, she says they were screamed during and infrequently even strike to obliterate a “devil” behind a error. And when Stylofino stopped profitable a workers for months, Souza pronounced a company’s co-owners — members of a Brazilian bend of a U.S.-based church — had a prepared explanation.


“They pronounced a business was struggling since we were sinners,” she said.

The business and a labor practices are underneath review by Brazilian authorities — usually one of several inquiries launched into a span of churches connected to Word of Faith Fellowship, a sly devout group formed in Spindale, North Carolina.

The Associated Press has schooled that Brazilian prosecutors also are looking into probable improprieties in a land understanding involving one of a churches. And preparation ministries in dual Brazilian states pronounced they are questioning allegations that church schools physically and psychologically abused students and redacted textbooks in defilement of state policy.

The investigations were spurred by AP stories in Jul detailing allegations that Word of Faith Fellowship combined a tube of immature congregants who contend they were brought to a U.S. from Brazil and forced to work during church-affiliated businesses for tiny or no pay. The stories also documented how a church usually took over a dual Brazilian congregations, instituting a fundamentalist prophesy that enclosed written and earthy abuse directed during expelling devils.

Pastors during a Word of Faith Fellowship branches — located in a Brazilian cities of Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha — have released statements denying a accusations, though did not respond to countless talk requests from a AP.

After a stories about a Brazilian churches were published in July, authorities in both Brazil and a United States launched investigations into a allegations of abuse, forced labor and visa fraud. Investigators told a AP that interviews stemming from that ongoing examine led them to investigate a conditions during Stylofino.

The tiny bureau in a Sao Paulo suburb of Franco da Rocha was non-stop in 2000 by Gerson Jose Garcia and Juarez de Souza Oliveira, according to taxation records.

De Souza Oliveira and mother Solange Granieri founded Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema, or Rhema Community Evangelical Ministry, in 1988. Garcia is a long-time member of a church, that includes an adjoining school.

Eight former bureau workers interviewed by a AP described a firm operative sourroundings that mirrored a eremite passion of a church and school. Only members of a church could work there: Leaving a church meant withdrawal a job.

The employees pronounced they were paid smallest salary and worked many inhabitant holidays, late during night and on weekends, though never were paid overtime. They were pressured into signing falsified time sheets that reflected vacations never taken and usually a singular hours they were ostensible to be working, they said.

They also pronounced they were not supposing lunch stipends or authorised to sell a apportionment of their holidays for pay, both of that are mandated by Brazilian law.

Three of a former workers pronounced they began partial time while in high school, operative off a books as “volunteers” for no compensation.

Andre Oliveira pronounced he started during a bureau in 2007 while still in high propagandize and continued into 2009 about 8 months after graduating, operative roughly each day from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for no pay.

“I never perceived even a cent,” pronounced Oliviera, who pennyless with a church final year and now lives in a United States.

He pronounced he feared that refusing to work would have led to being kicked out of church or “blasting,” a use in that supporters approximate a congregant and scream, mostly for hours.

The workers told a AP that, commencement in 2011, many employees were not paid their unchanging salaries for some-more than a year, instead receiving payments months late or usually a apportionment of what they were owed. Employees who complained or pronounced they indispensable income to compensate bills were some-more expected to get paid, a former members said.

They pronounced a owners blamed a cessation of salaries on a bureau carrying income problems due to workers sinning. Prayer increased, they said, and anybody who questioned what was going on was subjected to blasting.

“They would say, ‘A demon took we over! You are out of your mind!” pronounced a former workman who left a church and bureau in 2012 and recently gave testimony to sovereign police. The workman asked not to be identified since of kin still in a church.

Inside a factory, “They would put we in a chair and people would urge for you. They would shake you, strike we in a face,” a workman said.

Requests for criticism left during a home of Granieri and de Souza Oliveira, on Garcia’s cellphone and around Stylofino’s website were not returned.

On Aug. 3, sovereign military and labor investigators from Brazil’s Justice Department raided a church and propagandize in Franco da Rocha, entertainment annals and commencement a array of interviews, an central who was not certified to pronounce publicly and insisted on anonymity told a AP. The central pronounced that investigators also visited Stylofino a same day, conducting interviews and entertainment records.

A lady who answered a phone during Stylofino pronounced a business no longer operated as a factory, though declined to answer offer questions. Repeated knocks on a bureau doorway were not answered, and a “for rent” pointer was posted outside.

In a march of interviews, former members also told investigators about a understanding in that church leaders in a Franco da Rocha bend finished adult with tenure of land that primarily had been bought in a church’s name. Police examiner Felipe Carbonari reliable to a AP that an review was underneath approach though would yield no details.

The church and propagandize lay adjacent on a vast tract that backs adult onto a street, with a high blockade restraint any outward view. In 1999, a church bought dual adjoining parcels for 47,000 reales (then $24,700), according to annals reviewed by a AP.

The land was bought with income saved by a assemblage over 3 years by a common tithing of 10 percent and a series of targeted fundraisers, according to 6 former long-time members who pennyless with a church in a past year.

The devise was to build a rural home that would residence a church care and offer as a core of activities, a common use among Brazilian churches, they said. A home on one of a plots was renovated and Granieri and de Souza Oliveira live there today.

In 2006, a pastors themselves also became a properties’ authorised owners, with a seven-member house set adult to conduct a land, papers show. The annals uncover Granieri was named boss and de Souza Oliveira clamp president, with 4 of a remaining house slots filled out by a couple’s relatives.

The former members interviewed by a AP pronounced they were mad when they schooled of a skill transfers usually this year.

“We all worked to buy those lands,” pronounced Flavio Correa, who left a church final year after 25 years and recently supposing testimony to investigators. “When we see something like this with people we trusted, it’s like a universe is crashing around you.”

Meanwhile, preparation agencies in both states with Word of Faith Fellowship branches have launched investigations into a churches’ schools.

In a Jul stories, a AP reported that students were infrequently subjected to a same oppressive diagnosis that church members received, trimming from blustering to postulated isolation. The stories also minute how textbooks trimming from life sciences to embankment were heavily redacted. For example, a print of a lady requesting makeup in a amicable sciences book was lonesome completely, as were a genitals of a male in an anatomy book.

Inspectors have found several cases of censorship that disregarded propagandize regulations and also infringed on authors’ egghead rights, according to Webster Silvino de Oliveira, a propagandize superintendent whose district includes Sao Joaquim de Bicas.

De Oliveira pronounced a district would primarily demeanour to “correct and monitor” a conditions but arising fines or revoking a school’s license, and that accusations of abuse would be upheld on to law enforcement. He declined to plead specifics of anything found to date.

The superintendent overseeing a propagandize in Franco da Rocha did not respond to talk requests.

Allegations of abuse in a schools are widespread among former members.

Maria Reis pronounced her now 15-year-old son was frequently screamed during and segregated from other students since he had difficulty learning. She pulled her son from a propagandize final year and left a church in Franco da Rocha after being a supporter for 23 years.

Reis pronounced her preference to mangle with Word of Faith Fellowship came after she broached a propagandize emanate with church owner Jane Whaley, who was visiting Brazil for a wedding.

“‘You are a rebel. You are going opposite God,'” Reis removed Whaley revelation her. “I came to a end there was no gospel in this church. The design was usually to control people.”

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Associated Press contributor Stan Lehman in Franco da Rocha contributed to this report.

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Follow Peter Prengaman: twitter.com/peterprengaman

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