State Attorney’s Office Presents Discovery Exhibits Against ILC Head Pastor’s Son

State Attorney’s Office Presents Discovery Exhibits Against ILC Head Pastor’s Son

On April 13th, the Florida State Attorney's Office presented discovery exhibits against Ignite Life Center (ILC) Head Pastor Mark Vega’s son, Christian Vargas. 

The defendant, Vargas, was arrested last July and is being charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious behavior 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. 

In both of the discovery exhibits, the evidence includes, but is not limited to, papers or objects obtained from Vargas, electronic surveillance of conversations, search & seizure, reports or statements of experts, witness statements, defendant statements, and co-defendant statements, i.e., statements from ILC associate pastor Jose Cruz’s son Noel Cruz, who was arrested in February on one count of lewd or lascivious behavior for committing statutory rape against a 15-year-old when he was 20. 

A Gainesville Police Department (GPD)Supplemental Report shows that Noel Cruz and Vargas shared a victim whom he also coerced, whom Noel Cruz is facing charges for, but Vargas is not due to him reportedly being 17 when she was 15. 

The supplemental report additionally shows that Vega and Jose Cruz wanted to handle the matter internally after getting reports that their sons had been repeatedly committing statutory rape on church grounds. 

Vargas and Cruz are the 2nd and 3rd arrests to come out of ILC, respectively, so far. 

The first was a former employee and volunteer at ILC, Gabriel Hemenez, who was arrested two weeks before Vargas last July after he told detectives he inappropriately touched three minors and one adult during his time at an ILC summer internship program in July 2021. 

Hemenez was found guilty after entering a plea of nolo contendere, resulting in a five-year sentence in a state penitentiary as part of a plea deal.

ILC and the Orlando-based Assemblies of God District Council (FMDAG), which officially oversees ILC in matters of employee & sexual assault prevention training, are currently facing three civil lawsuits for their handling of Hemenez’s sexual abuse against the Plaintiffs.

All Plaintiffs are alleging ILC and FMDAG committed negligence and vicarious liability in their handling of the sexual abuses, with one of the Plaintiffs additionally suing for fraud and emotional distress. 

One of the civil suits, calls out ILC's celebrity connections, alleging Vega used his authoritative position at former Yankees Pitcher & World Series Champion Mariano Rivera's church as a means to convince a parent to pay to send their child from Rivera's church in White Plains, NY, to ILC for their summer internship program where Hemenez committed the sexual abuses against the Plaintiff.

Another civil suit states that ILC lied to the Plaintiff about reporting his allegations to GPD and that ILC did not report allegations they received about sexual abuses committed by Hemenez as far back as 2019. 

This would dispute Vega’s comments at a town hall-style meeting after Hemenez’s arrest, saying, “This is definitely weighing on each and every one of us,” and his statement on ILC’s behalf, prevaricating that ILC would “support the victims, their families, and everyone involved.”

Church administrators have not gone on the record with any statements following Vargas’ and Cruz’s arrests. 

An anonymous tipper from ILC previously said the church and its attendees are pretending nothing is happening, detailing, “Only Hemenez’s case was ever addressed” and “They have members thinking they’re the ones being attacked.”

ILC has recently submitted motions to dismiss all counts in their civil lawsuits, except for each Plaintiff's claim of negligence. The defendants have not regarded FMDAG in their motions of dismissal, only ILC.

Vargas and Cruz both have case management hearings scheduled for May 6th and May 28th, respectively.

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