Gainesville FL Pastor Travels to New York City Despite CSA Coverup

Gainesville FL Pastor Travels to New York City Despite CSA Coverup
Head pastor Vega at ILC's most recent sermon saying “We are technically on vacation,” despite posting photos in New York City just days prior

Head Pastor at Ignite Life Center (ILC), Mark Vega, recently visited New York City (NYC) on April 4th, while his son, Christian Vargas, has been given a court order allowing him to visit White Plains, New York, despite facing charges for committing sexual abuses against two minors at ILC in Gainesville, Florida.

This is in lieu of court documents in the case of child sexual abuse (CSA) involving Noel Cruz, the son of associate pastor Jose Cruz, which show that the pastors wanted to handle the matter internally after finding their sons had repeatedly committed statutory rape on church grounds.

The docs additionally show that another victim had been coerced by Vargas, for whom Noel Cruz is facing charges but Vargas is not.  

Vargas is required to adhere to court orders in New York as he would adhere to them in Florida. Due to court orders not permitting Vargas to be around minors alone, constant companionship and/or surveillance would be needed to ensure he is following said court order. 

The court order granting Vargas permission to travel states, "Vargas is permitted to travel with his parents to White Plains, New York from from April 1, 2024-April 10, 2024."

On April 4th, Vega posted an Instagram story where he took a selfie in Times Square with comedian Tracy Morgan while he was inside his vehicle. He showed another picture, which was of an advertisement for a Broadway musical titled “Hell’s Kitchen,” along with a winking emoji. 

Vega has had a longstanding presence in NYC, with Instagram photos and official websites showing he grew up in or around the Bronx, served as the Yankees Chaplin, and is a long-time friend and business partner of former Yankees pitcher, five-time World Series champion, and White Plains resident Mariano Rivera. 

Despite his history in NYC, Vega has made misogynistic and racist statements aimed at NY mothers, in addition to Black people and Hispanic people. 

On February 10th, 2019, Vega reposted a quote on Instagram, which states, “The most dangerous place for a Black or Hispanic baby to live is the womb of an NY mother.” Vega signed his name to the quote to indicate he originally said it. 

Vega doubled down on his rhetoric through social media in the following year, posting a picture on Instagram that stated, “Before we defund the police, let's defund planned parenthood... The most dangerous place for a black person to be is not in a squad car, but his mother’s womb.” 

Despite Vega’s statements and the evidence showing that he has continuously covered up CSA, Mariano Rivera has not shown any sway in support for him and has largely enjoyed the benefits of being a renowned baseball player, making appearances on the Jimmy Fallon Tonight show and Impractical Jokers. 

In January, 2024, six months after Vargas was charged, Rivera reposted pictures on the Facebook page for the Mariano Rivera Foundation where he was standing next to Vega’s son.  

One of the ongoing civil lawsuits against Ignite, relating to another CSA coverup by the church's administrators in the case of convicted sexual offender Gabriel Hemenez, goes into detail about Rivera and Vega’s business relationship, stating they made money off of New York families and innocent children. 

“ILC and Refuge of Hope had a longstanding business relationship and/or enterprise in which children from the New York church were sent to the ILC summer internship as a means of generating income for ILC... ILC collected a substantial fee from parents of those attending the Summer Internship, including the Plaintiff's family, and otherwise profited from children from the New York church attending the ILC summer program in Florida.”

Despite court orders showing Vargas would be permitted in New York until the 10th, Vega made an appearance at the end of ILC’s most recent sermon on the 7th, stating to churchgoers, “I heard the Lord tell me to call my church higher.”

Vega added clarification to his presence, and indicated his wife, Lisa Vega, was traveling with him by stating, “I’m not supposed to be here. My wife is not supposed to be here.” He then said with air quotes, “We are technically on vacation.” 


The sermon stopped live streaming shortly after Vega said he was “technically on vacation.” It is unclear if Vargas left New York early with his parents, if Mark and Lisa Vega traveled back to White Plains, or if he is in New York without parental supervision. It is equally unclear how it would be ensured that Vargas would follow court orders.

Jack Walden

Jack Walden

Jack Walden is the creator of Gnvinfo and a 2nd year journalism major at Santa Fe College. From general information, to exposing falsehoods and corruption, Jack seeks to deliver the truth.
Gainesville, FL