Ignite Life Center Pastors Wanted to Handle Reported Sexual Abuses Internally

Ignite Life Center Pastors Wanted to Handle Reported Sexual Abuses Internally
Father of Christian Vargas, Senior Pastor Mark Vega (Left) | Father of Noel Cruz, Associate Pastor Jose Cruz (Right)

The statement submitted by an anonymous tipper from Ignite Life Center on Tuesday has been proven correct. 

A Gainesville Police Department Supplemental Report shows that senior pastor Mark Vega and associate pastor Jose Cruz wanted to leave the law out of it after discovering their sons Christian David Vargas (son of Vega) and Noel Cruz repeatedly committed statutory rape on church grounds. 

During July 2021, 17-year-old Vargas began having sex with a 15-year-old girl. One month later, 20-year-old Noel Cruz began having sex with the same girl. 

Noel Cruz was arrested and charged with sexual battery on February 19th for these incidents. Vargas is not being charged for this due to Romeo and Juliet laws; however, he is awaiting trial on two charges for allegedly raping a 12- to 13-year-old girl when he was 17, as well as making unwanted sexual advances towards a 14 year-old girl when he was 17 and 18. 

According to the supplemental report, in November 2022, the victim told her parents about the sexual misconduct, and her parents arranged a meeting with pastors Vega and Jose Cruz. The victim's father spoke over the phone, and the three of them planned a meeting with themselves, the victim, Vargas, and Noel Cruz. 

Jose Cruz and Vega reportedly told the father over the phone, “We’re gonna scare the shit out of these guys and let them know what will happen if the law gets involved.”

The victim told police that the intercourse was consensual but that she felt like she was taken advantage of by Vargas and Cruz.

Pastors Vega and Cruz, their accused sons, as well as the victim and her parents, met with other Ignite Life Center leaders at Vega’s house. 

During the meeting, Noel Cruz and Vagras admitted to taking advantage of the victim, and there was an agreement that the sexual activity between them and her would stop. Vega reportedly explained to the meeting's attendees, “Jail will not solve the issue.”

The supplemental report states the victim’s father forgave Vargas and Noel Cruz at the time because he expected there to be a change after the meeting, but there was no acknowledgement of what happened. He said he was okay with keeping it internal because he thought there would be “healing and restoration.” 

The victim's father told investigators he felt naive for not reporting the incidents to law enforcement from the beginning. He stated he left the church after former employee Gabriel Hemenez was arrested on July 6th, 2023, for sexually abusing three minors who were placed in his care during a month-long youth internship program held by Ignite Life Center in July 2021. 

The supplemental report additionally discloses that the child of the informant who told the police about these incidents reported sexual abuse at an Ignite Life Center internship being held in the Summer of 2018.

The supplemental report conflicts with Ignite’s statements after Hemenez was arrested, saying they have been “fully cooperative with the investigative process being led by the Gainesville Police Department.”

Everyone who works at Ignite Life Center is required to take prevention of sexual abuse training and is mandated to report sexual abuse. 

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