Gainesville Florida Church Ignite Life Center Files Motions of Dismissal in Civil Lawsuits

Gainesville Florida Church Ignite Life Center Files Motions of Dismissal in Civil Lawsuits
Ignite Life Center

Editors Notes: All Plaintiffs are anonymous and will be referred to as Plaintiff 1, Plaintiff 2, and Plaintiff 3. 

ORLANDO, Fla. Ignite Life Center (ILC) has filed motions to dismiss in their ongoing civil suits, accusing them of negligence, vicarious liability, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress regarding sexual abuses committed by Gabriel Hemenez at ILC. 

The suits are based in Orlando as they are additionally taking legal action against the Orlando-based FL Multicultural District Council of the Assemblies of God (FMDAG); however, all motions to dismiss have have been for legal actions against ILC and not FMDAG. 

ILC is a district-affiliated church of the Assemblies of God, with FMDAG overseeing ILC in matters of employee training and sexual abuse prevention.

Hemenez was originally arrested on July 6th last year after he told Gainesville Police Department (GPD) detectives that he had inappropriately touched three minors and one adult at a church Summer program in 2021. 

Hemenez was found guilty of two felony counts of molestation against a victim between the ages of 12 and 16, in addition to a misdemeanor count of battery. He was originally facing 31 years in prison; however, he was offered a plea deal and sentenced to 5 years in a state penitentiary, followed by 8 years of probation.

All three plaintiffs are suing ILC and FMDAG for negligence and vicarious liability. Plaintiff 1 is additionally, and as of now, the only plaintiff suing ILC for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

The defendants have not filed to dismiss all the motions being brought against ILC, filing motions of dismissal for the counts of vicarious liability in all the plantiff's cases, and also filing motions to dismiss the accusations of intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud being brought against ILC by Plaintiff 1. 

Regarding Plaintiff 1’s case, the defendants claim they cannot be held for vicarious liability, with the motion stating it must be dismissed because “the alleged abuse was outside the volunteers’ scope.” The defendants cite the same reason for dismissal of vicarious liability in Plaintiff 2 and Plaintiff 3’s cases.

They elaborate, claiming Plaintiff 1’s accusations state that Hemenez was not acting in the scope of ILC’s agency when committing the sexual abuses at the summer internship. 

This is despite Plaintiff 1’s motion of vicarious liability against ILC stating, "Hemenez was authorized to build a close relationship with and take on the role of spiritual mentor and counselor to [Plaintiff 1], to be alone with [Plaintiff 1], and other minors in the course of ILC’s business activities, and to have unlimited contact with minor children for the purpose of furthering the goals and mission of ILC.”

The defendants claim they cannot be held liable for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

Their motion said that Plaintiff 1 did not give examples of being retaliated or harassed as he accused, and went on to claim the act of coercion is not outrageous, stating, “[Plaintiff 1] claims that he was lied to and deceived in an attempt to coerce him into silence, but this is not outrageous conduct as a matter of law.”

Plaintiff 1’s motion of infliction of emotional distress against ILC states that Mark Vega and the administration of ILC withheld the fact that several other boys had reported Hemenez from Plaintiff 1, leading him to believe he was the only person who had been abused by Hemenez.  

Plaintiff 1’s lawsuit states that ILC intentionally withheld this information from him “to coerce and shame [him] into silence.” His suit accuses ILC of ongoing harassment and seeking retaliatory action against him since he began participating in legal proceedings against ILC.

They additionally lied to him for months, saying his allegations were being investigated by GPD. However, when Plaintiff 1 called GPD to ask how the investigation was going, they told him there wasn’t an investigation because ILC never reported the allegations to the authorities. 

So far, not a single member of ILC has been willing to put their names to their statements when detailing the internal affairs of ILC, with all choosing to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliatory action by ILC administrators.

Former and current ILC members and affiliates who have come forward anonymously have all regarded head pastor Mark Vega as having a level of unquestionable authority over the congregation and other ILC administrators.

The defendants additionally claimed their count for fraud must be dismissed, stating, “[Plaintiff 1] failed to provide any specifics as to when the statements were allegedly made or how his reliance on the statements were to his detriment, despite his conclusory allegations that it affected him in some way.”

This is despite Plaintiff 1’s lawsuit stating, “[Plaintiff 1] reported his sexual abuse by Hemenez to [ILC] Head Pastor Mark Vega and Assistant Pastor Nicholas Bruce in or around October 2022.”

Plaintiff 1’s lawsuit additionally details how Hemenez was “out to the church community as a fit and safe church leader who could be trusted with the minor children of the church, and despite the fact that the alleged victim continued to attend church services at [ILC].”

ILC administrators have shown a protocol of fraud, with Vega previously making a statement after Hemenez's arrest that said "Ignite Life Center has been fully cooperative with the investigative process being led by the Gainesville Police Department," despite a GPD Supplemental Report in the case of associate pastor Jose Cruz's son, Noel Cruz, showing that Vega and Jose Cruz did not report the matter to authorities after learning their sons had repeatedly committed statutory rape on church grounds. 

Vega's son, Christian Vargas, is not facing charges for this; however, he is facing charges for allegedly raping a 12- to 13-year-old girl when he was 16 as well as sexually coercing a 14-year-old girl when he was 17–18. 

Vargas recently got back from White Plains, NY, despite his ongoing charges for committing sexual abuses against minors. Mark Vega said him and his wife Lisa Vega were "technically on vacation" at a recent sermon. Vega did not regard whether his son traveled back with them or not.

Noel Cruz has a case management hearing scheduled for tomorrow at 2:00 pm.

Horowitz Law Firm and Attorney Jessica Arbor, who is representing the plaintiffs in the civil suits said that there are more victims and that more lawsuits will be filed against ILC and FMDAG in the future. 

Refer here for full background on each civil lawsuit. 

Civil Lawsuits Filed Against Ignite Life Center & Fl Multicultural District Council of the Assemblies of God
ILC allowed Hemenez to interact with children for months despite being told by children that they were sexually assaulted by Hemenez.
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