Head Pastor’s Son Travels to White Plains, NY, Despite Facing CSA Charges in Gainesville, FL

Head Pastor’s Son Travels to White Plains, NY, Despite Facing CSA Charges in Gainesville, FL
Former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera (left) Christian Vargas (middle) Mark Vega (right)

Updated Apr 4 | New info regarding Vargas’ continuance.

Head Pastor at Ignite Life Center (ILC), Mark Vega’s son, Christian Vargas, is currently in White Plains, New York, despite currently facing charges for committing sexual abuses against two minors. 

Vargas’ motion to travel out of state from April 1 through April 10 was unopposed by the court. 

Vargas is required to adhere to all pre-trial conditions as he would in Florida while in and traveling to and from New York. These conditions include wearing a global positioning system (GPS), not having contact with any victims, not having unsupervised contact with minors, and having a curfew from 7 pm to 6 am except for work, school, or church purposes. 

Vargas was released from jail on a $40,000 bond just one day after being arrested last July. 

Furthermore, court documents in the case of child sexual abuse involving Noel Cruz, the son of associate pastor Jose Cruz, reveal that Vargas had another victim he coerced, for whom Noel Cruz is facing charges but Vargas is not.

A Gainesville Police Department Supplemental Report shows that Jose Cruz and Vega tried to cover for their sons after they received reports of them repeatedly committing statutory rape on church grounds.  

This isn’t the only time ILC tried to cover up sexual abuse against children. Three civil suits were filed last month against the church and the Orlando based Assemblies of God District Council, which oversees them in matters of employee training & sexual abuse prevention.

The lawsuits accuse ILC of covering up sexual abuses committed by Gabriel Hemenez after multiple teenage boys reported him to ILC administrators. 

This is despite Vega releasing a statement following Hemenez's arrest where he said on behalf of ILC that the organization would "support and foster a healthy reporting culture," and "cooperate with law enforcement in maintaining justice."

Hemenez was formerly an employee at Ignite Life Center in 2019–2020 before attending a youth summer program as a volunteer in 2021, where he committed the sexual abuses he was charged with. 

Hemenez was recently sentenced to 5 years in prison, followed by 8 years of supervised probation. He was given a plea deal from the FL State Attorney's Office on two felony counts of molestation against a victim between the ages of 12 and 16, in addition to a misdemeanor count of battery.

One of the plaintiffs who is suing ILC attended former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera and his wife Pastor Clara Rivera’s church, Refuge of Hope Church, which is located near White Plains in New Rochelle, NY. 

Mariano Rivera has made his residence in White Plains, NY. Legal documentation, official websites, social media posts, and photographic evidence show that Vega and Mariano Rivera had a long-standing friendship going back to Vega’s time as a chaplin on the New York Yankees. 

The previously mentioned plaintiff’s lawsuit details how Mariano Rivera and Vega had a longstanding business relationship, making money off 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.”

Indicating a possible reason for Vargas’ travel, an anonymous member of the church spoke on the methodologies of their congregation’s administration. 

“I'm shocked they granted this, but not shocked that they requested it. They’re always looking for exceptions and think they’re above the law. His case management hearing is set for April 8th.  I'm sure Mark and Mariano are prepping and coaching him on what to do. That’s why he’s there.”

Another anonymous tipper who previously made a statement against the church’s coverup before court documents proved their statements correct has once again given insight into ILC, saying the church and its attendees are pretending nothing is happening. 

“It’s sad. They have members thinking they’re the ones being attacked. They are probably hoping people will forget about it and think it's all made up. Only Hemenez’s case was ever addressed. I have heard other members say they were privately told not to believe the accusations. They are saying they can’t talk about it as an excuse to not address it. It’s been business as usual.”

The tipper went on to call for charges against the ILC administration before questioning Vargas’ vacation. 

“I’m surprised the pastors and leaders have not been charged for concealing and not reporting the abuse. How can we be sure during this trip that Mark’s son will not be around minors unsupervised? It’s like they want him to continue doing what he’s doing.”

Vargas’ upcoming case management hearing was originally scheduled for the 8th of this month, however, he was granted a continuance and the date is now May 6 at 2:00 pm.

Public Relations Manager of ILC Nicole Gomez has not responded after she was left a voicemail asking how it would be ensured Vargas would follow all 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