Interview: Anonymous Ignite Life Center Whistleblower Alleges New Coverup by Pastor

Interview: Anonymous Ignite Life Center Whistleblower Alleges New Coverup by Pastor

This is the full interview of the former Ignite School of Ministry student at Ignite Life Center, who recently detailed a new alleged sexual abuse coverup against a child in an article released Friday. The whistleblower chose to use gender-neutral pronouns to further conceal their identity and left at some point in the last 18 months. Furthermore, they detailed the internal affairs of Ignite Life Center, cult-like behavior coming from the Ignite School of Ministry, and how Ignite is enforced by head pastor Mark Vega.

Q: Before I start asking questions, what did you want to tell me?

A: I for sure want to talk about one case that I don’t think you know about, and I want to talk about the Ignite School of Ministry and how it's very cult-like. After I had left Ignite I always joked I was in a cult but after thinking about it more I realized that I was in a cult. It made me wanna speak up.

Q: What's this new case? Is it recent? Has it hit the news or anything?

A: From what I’m aware, it's not in the news. I know the people who reported it, and from what I’m aware, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is already involved. It happened years ago, but I just found out about it.

Q: Do you know who the perpetrator is?

A: Yes.

Q: Can I ask who it is?

A: To keep the child’s identity safe, I'm just going to say it’s one of the pastors under Mark Vega. His child is a victim. It was a child-on-child incident, and the father and the mother were aware of the situation. They walked in on the situation, and they decided that, between the parents of the children, their parents both decided to forgive and stay quiet. The pastor, his wife, and the other parents decided not to resolve it with the police; due to the guidance of Mark Vega, they resolved it at a meeting in his house. 

Q: What were the ages of the perpetrator and victim?

A: I’m not going to say the exact age, but young, between two and six years- 

Q: Wait, two?

A: The child is a few years older now, but younger when the incident happened. And it was another child who was sexually touching the other child. That child was between the ages of nine and twelve, and the parents happened to walk in when that child was touching the other child. 

When we found this out, we reported it. We’ve been waiting for things to come up in the news, but nothing has. It has been reported to the police. From my understanding, the police have been investigating. It’s just a circle that shows Mark Vega is aware of these incidents and still not doing anything; neither are the parents. That little kid is a few years older now, and I don’t know. Immediately after the investigation began, the pastor’s position in Ignite Refugio was nullified. This was reported in April; I thought you were made aware of this.

Q: No, I didn’t know about this. 

A: We’ve been trying to figure out how to get to you anonymously. Mark Vega had made a mention that he’s aware of all of these interviews and who is saying what. That’s why we’re kind of scared to speak.

Q: I think that’s a lie.

A: I was told that you were getting emailed and that it was possible you were getting sued.

Q: No, not from what I’m aware of. I haven’t been served. I’m not sued until I’m served. Besides, it's all public records. But, I’m so sorry, that’s sickening.

A: I just wanted to see what I could do. You’re the only one who continuously makes reports. I just wanted to give you some new information.

Q: Would they arrest the pastor if they come up with anything, or would the child of the other family possibly be facing any charges?

A: I don’t know, from what I understand, DCF has spoken to the family, but that’s all I know. 

Q: Do you think there’s any public record on this now that it's been reported, maybe a case number? 

A: I tried looking up his name, but I couldn’t find anything.

Q: Yeah, there haven't been any arrests with this, and I imagine it's going to be harder to find records when the perpetrator is a minor too. What did you want to tell me about the Ignite School of Ministry? I’ve heard a lot of rumors about that too.

A: I don’t know what you’ve been told, but it is very cult-like. There was a time when, if the house wasn’t clean during the inspection, we would have to wake up at 5:00 am to deep clean the entire apartment and then go to prayer for an hour.

Q: Did they call it “servanthood”? That’s what I’ve heard.

A: Servanthood was always on the schedule, but that was like once or twice a week. What I’m talking about is like a punishment because our house wasn’t properly cleaned.

Q: Do you know anything about the sister churches? I know they would bring in a lot of Ignite School of Ministry students from Mariano’s church.

A:  I wouldn’t call Rivera’s church a sister church. Obviously, Mark does have close relationships with Mariano Rivera. I know that we had a lot of summer internship students from there. They would stay for a month with no phone. When I first started it, they could only talk to their parents on Sundays or Mondays, and then they ended up changing it to every day, but for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Q: Is there anything about the Ignite admin members you think would be worth mentioning that hasn’t come up in the news? I know who they all are, but I don’t know if they are all equally guilty. 

A: Ignite runs like this: There’s Mark and Lisa Vega. Then you’ve got who I like to call their minions, who are Esther Ombeon, Nicole Gomez, Nicholas Bruce, Adolfo Gomez, and Maria Godinez. Outside of that, there are leaders, but then there’s the church after the leaders. What I will say is that every Wednesday they would meet, they would have pastoral meetings, and I’m not 100% sure, but they would talk about these cases, or they would talk about it at Mark’s house.

Q: Who has all been let go of Ignite Refugio?

A: Agustin Boissen, Esther Ombeon, Nicole Gomez, Jose Cruz, and Nicholas Bruce. All except Jose are still pastors with Ignite. Jose Cruz is the only one gone entirely from Ignite; I don't know if he was let go or if he just left. 

Q: Some of the other whistleblowers I’ve talked to have said that Ignite would manipulate biblical scripture in their sermons, and it might not be accurate. Do you know anything about that?

A: I think that’s what I’m struggling with now. Ignite was the first church I went to, so to me, everything they taught felt correct. I’m realizing that it's not. For example, Mark Vega is against reading fortune cookies, so I thought if I read a fortune cookie, I was going to hell. However, Mark is okay with watching R-rated movies, so it's like he’s being hypocritical. It’s what he feels is okay. This is a man who cusses. If he’s a man of God, then why is he saying those things? Sometimes he makes the most sexual jokes.

Q: Can you give me an example?

A: He talks publicly a lot about his wife.

Q: Oh no.

A: Yeah. He talks publicly about his wife. He’s very open about his old sex life and how he used to get all these women.

Mark Vega and Mariano Rivera in the 90s

Q: Uh, no. I’ve reported pictures of him in the old days, and trust me, he doesn’t look any better than he does now. If he did, it was because of Mariano Rivera.

A: Yeah, and I actually met Marinao Rivera, and he is a very phenomenal guy. He really is.

Q: Really?

A: I don’t think they’re aware of what’s going on.

Q: Well, I’ve made him aware, and he blocked me over it.

A: Oh, maybe he’s aware now then.

Q: I might like to challenge your statement because I literally have reported a picture of him, Vega, and Vega’s son. I went into Mariano’s comments section on LinkedIn about it; he blocked me and didn’t acknowledge me at all. I’ve made him aware of it. 

A: Maybe I don’t know. At this point, I’m not surprised by what Ignite does.

Mariano Rivera, Christian Vargas, and Mark Vega

Q: After the first arrest; before the pastors Vega and Cruz sons' arrests, when Gabriel Hemenez got arrested, they had this town hall-style meeting at the church. That was the first time I wrote an article about them because that was before I knew how bad they were, so I kind of just waltzed in there.

A: I’m sorry.

Q: No, it's nothing to apologize for.

A: There are genuinely good people at the church.

Q: I can tell; I know.

A: It’s just like they’re under a spell. That’s what is sick; I was under that spell. That was until my friend was like, “Hey, did you know that Ignite is aware of these situations?” I found out that the leadership knew about this and didn’t do anything. That’s when I got disgusted and stepped back.

What I thought originally was that boys were molested, and that’s sick, but I thought Ignite didn’t know. When I found out Ignite was aware, that’s not okay; I had to get out.

Q: Why do you think Mark responded after Hemenez got arrested but didn’t after the arrest of his son?

A: Supposedly, these are his words; he can’t respond because it’s his son. The word from the lawyer is that he can’t comment on that situation because it has to do with his son.

Q: What about the arrest of the associate pastor’s son? Well, I guess since they’re co-defendants, maybe he couldn’t comment on that too.

A: Yeah. Another thing is that at the Ignite School of Ministry, we would get Christmas off but would have to report back for New Years to serve at the church. We never really got to spend that new year with our families because the church needed us. I’m trying to regain all the years that I missed.

I really want to get this out. I really believe that if this were to be like a Netflix documentary, it would be a hit because there are so many stories that people haven’t spoken to yet.

Q: Does Mark Vega have any other local or celebrity connections?

A: The basketball court Ignite has was created by the Basketball Cop Foundation; they created it for free. He played softball with at least a couple of police officers. I don’t know if he was close to Swat or another division. I feel like Mark has relationships everywhere. His wife, Lisa Vega, has a really close relationship with Preston Bailey.

Lisa Vega and Preston Bailey

Q: Who is he?

A: He’s a huge celebrity that does these wedding designs; he did it for Kim Kardashian's wedding. Lisa Vega has a partnership with him and her flower company, Fiorebela

Q: Is there anything else you wanted to add about the Ignite School of Ministry?

A: The Ignite School of Ministry did a lot of events that the students never got money for. We did the Superbowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the U.S. Open. Only the staff would get paid. We did all the University of Florida game concessions and never got a penny for it. We would work there from hours to weeks with no sleep. Until recently, they would do all these events and not get paid. They started getting paid one or two years ago through an agency called Event Force. 

Q: Did you see his recent trip to Brazil?

A: Yeah.

Q: Do you know why he has such a presence there?

A: Because Mark Vega is really good with his words. He has his entire church thinking that this is an attack from the enemy, that the reports are all lies, and what Ignite is doing is justice.

Q: So, like, QAnon? Kind of like that conspiracy theory? So who am I supposed to be, like a secret agent or something?

A: Yeah. That’s what he thinks the reports are coming from, basically.

Q: I’m in college; what?

A: Yeah, it's crazy.

Q: Yeah. I mean, maybe they accept it, but sometimes I feel like if they knew who I was as a person, then they would see that’s not the case.

A: I think you’re trying to shed light on a situation that they’re trying to keep shy.

Q: You don’t have to answer this question, but some people have talked about how pastor and public relations manager Nicole Gomez, or pastor Esther Ombeon, started attending church pretty young and kind of got pushed into being in a leadership position. I was wondering if you have anything to comment on that? 

A: Well, some people were living what they would call a “wreckless life," which was really just a normal teenager experience. Some people’s parents didn’t know what to do, and they were sent to the Ignite School of Ministry. Some people feel their parents' pressure; they want the best for their daughters, and here’s this place where it looks like lives are being transformed. Some people never left.

Something cults do is isolate them from their family, and unfortunately, that’s what Mark Vega does. Something he preaches is, “Family is the first to turn on you.” That’s not the truth. What he means is that the family is seeing how much crap this is and is trying to take you out. Mark feeds you these things that make you feel like you’re loved and have a family; you don’t want to go back to your real family.

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