Ignite Life Center Counselor Granted Plea Deal and Sentenced to Five Years

Ignite Life Center Counselor Granted Plea Deal and Sentenced to Five Years
Defendant Gabriel Hemenez's mugshot

On March 6th, former employee and counselor at Ignite Life Center, Gabriel Hemenez, and the Florida State Attorney's Office finalized a plea deal regarding two felony counts of molestation against a victim between the ages of 12 and 16, in addition to a misdemeanor count of battery. This agreement led to Hemenez being sentenced to 5 years in prison, followed by 8 years of supervised probation. 

Hemenez’s probation requirements include receiving mental health treatment throughout his probation, along with a psychosexual evaluation. He will also be required to register as a sex offender and will have to choose between paying monthly court costs or completing 10 hours of community service per month. 

Hemenez originally pleaded not guilty; however, the prosecution opted to offer him a guilty plea in exchange for a lighter sentence. Originally facing up to 31 years in prison, Hemenez took the deal.

Generally speaking, if the case had gone to trial, several minor victims would have likely been required to publicly speak about Hemenez’s abuses at the stand in order for a conviction to take place. 

Last July, detectives from the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) traveled to Hemenez’s residence after a victim reported that he was sexually abused by Hemenez. During the interview, Hemenez confessed to inappropriately touching three children and one adult during his time at Ignite Life Center.

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 the first person to be arrested at Ignite Life Center last July. Senior pastor Mark Vega’s son, Christian Vargas, was arrested two weeks after Hemenez. Associate pastor Jose Cruz’s son, Noel Cruz, was arrested last month. 

Within the same week of Hemenez’s arrest, senior pastor Vega issued a response on behalf of Ignite Life Center, stating, “We are fully committed to continually support and foster a healthy reporting culture and to cooperate with law enforcement in maintaining justice.” 

Despite this, a GPD Supplemental Report shows that senior pastor Mark Vega and associate pastor Jose Cruz wanted to handle the matter internally after discovering their sons repeatedly committed statutory rape on church grounds. 

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