Did you know that the Word of Faith Fellowship has nearly 2,000 members internationally? They have affiliate churches all over the world including Brazil, Sweden, Scotland, and other countries. I don’t get it. Why would Jane Whaley want to branch out to churches outside the United States? Why not just expand within North Carolina? What could she possibly gain from having members all over the world? The answer, some former members say, is human trafficking. Brazil is by far the biggest territory ruled under Jane Whaley’s kingdom. They have churches in two southeastern Brazilian cities. The first church is in Soa Joaquim de Bicas which is about 6 hours north of Rio de Janeiro. They also have second church in Franco de Rocha which is an hour outside of Sao Paulo. John Huddle, a former Word of Faith Fellowship member recalls visiting the church in Brazil. You would think that leaving Spindale, North Carolina would be a liberating feeling—a rare treat. Oh no. Huddle says that even in the plane, Jane’s rules were in full effect. "You're told what to wear. You're told not to look at the movies on the plane." He says that the church culture travels with you no matter where you go. John Huddle says that in the early years, Jane sent some key people to Brazil and Ghana to be her eyes and ears. Jane conquered Brazil and offered them salvation For a few lucky Brazilians, Jane blessed them with more than just salvation—an opportunity to live in the United States. Ana Albuquerque told the Associated Press that when she first arrived in Spindale, church members showered her with love. She said, "The first time you go, they treat you well. But afterwards, they start treating you bad.” Ana says things turned ugly fast. She claims she worked full time as a teacher’s assistant and baby sat church member’s children at night–all without pay. Then the physical abuse started. Ana says that Jane and another minister spanked her with a wooden stick. She told the AP they blasted her with a screaming prayer because she was “unclean” and possessed by the devil. And we’re not talking a small tap on the butt kind of spank. Ana says the beatings lasted for at least 40 minutes. She finally was allowed to return to Brazil and has since left the church. 16 Brazilian come forward “It was a horror living there,” says Rebecca Mello. Her dreams of freedom quickly turned into a nightmare. She told the Associated Press that she was brought to the US in 2009 on a student visa. Immediately after she got here, church leaders took her passports and her money, and was quickly put to work. "We’re made to get up early, make the kids breakfast, cook, do their beds, pick up the the laundry.” Thiago Silva says, "We were there working, but we never got paid. If you’re not paid for something, even for your food, I would say that you’re a slave." All in all, 16 Brazilian’s have come forward to share their personal story of abuse and enslavement. The church responds to season 3 The Prophet Word of Faith Fellowship attorney Josh Farmer reacted to Pretend Radio Season 3 The Prophet. He told the Daily Courier: "We are saddened to learn that the Pretend Radio podcasts produced by Javier Leiva are simply another outlet for the defamatory lies against our church. The lies being told by Carlos and Ana from Brazil are outrageous. Carlos has never come to our church and we know that he was never beaten in Brazil." Then on Patreon, church minister Bonnie Lawrence wrote: "My name Bonnie Lawrence and all the allegations that Carlos Henrique made about me are a complete lie. None of it ever happened. I am a member of the word of faith and I spend a lot of time in Brazil. The case against the church in Brazil was dismissed by the judge. The judge found that the testimony from the people against the church was not credible regarding slave labor." She points to an article published from a local Rutherford county blog that claims to have a court document from Brazil where a judge dismissed the case against the Brazilian church. The document from the Brazilian judge states that there is no evidence to indicate that the church is practicing slavery. The document also states, “For these reason, in addition to other inconsistencies, I will not except the allegations of the witnesses of the public ministry of labor.” They wrote except with an “e” and not accept with an “a.” I point this out because I can’t confirm the source of this document. The judge concluded that, “For this reason, I dismiss as unfounded the pleadings in question.” No other news media has reported this other than this local blog. I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m just saying it’s awfully strange that a small blog got this document and no one else could. Bonnie Lawrence also wrote on Patreon, “The judge found that there was not any slave labor at the word of faith fellowship and that those young Brazilians that visited our church were not forced to work and were not held against their will. I also contacted the US attorney’s office right before this episode aired to see if there were any updates on the US investigation into human trafficking and forced labor. Lia Bantavani, the Public Affairs Officer for the Western District of North Carolina US Attorney's Office wrote me and said, “can only share that the investigation is ongoing.” [caption id="attachment_730" align="alignright" width="300"] True Crime Podcast Festival - Chicago 201[/caption] True Crime Podcast Festival | Chicago 2019 Also, I am excited to announce that Pretend Radio is going to be attending the first annual True Crime Podcast Festival on July 13, 2019 in Chicago! Trust me, start planning now. It’s worth traveling to. This is your chance to mingle with podcasters you listen to regularly. There will also be live episode recordings as well as panel discussions. In fact, I’m speaking in one of them. Some of the shows registered are All Crime No Cattle, Criminology, Canadian True Crime, Mugshot, Swindled, Sword and Scale, and so many more. You won’t want to miss this. Go to the website TCPF2019.com to find information on tickets and the hotel. Prices do go up the closer we get to the event so you won’t want to wait. When you buy your ticket, make sure you mention Pretend Radio on the ticket registration survey. This is going to be a blast. I can’t wait to meet everyone at the True Crime Podcast Festival! For more information, see the show notes. Subscribe Apple Podcasts Google Play Stitcher Spotify Many people have been writing me and sharing their stories. If you have a story to share, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Today’s episode was edited by the talented Molly Clay. Our theme music was composed by Joe Basile with thechicken.net.