GRANTS – A paramilitary religious sect rocked by child sexual abuse allegations appeared to be a small, poor group living in a secluded ranching area in western New Mexico who complained they were mere victims of constant persecution by people who didn’t really understand their reading of the Christian Bible.
But authorities say the trustees of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps are owners of thousands of acres of land and benefited from a wealthy, high-ranking member who aided them in avoiding law enforcement by hiding children throughout its vast holdings.
Those holdings and regular deceptions by leaders, authorities said, made it difficult for the small Cibola County Sheriff’s Office to investigate allegations of child abuse and child sexual abuse that former members say went back years.
Speaking before a magistrate judge on Friday, Cibola County Undersheriff Michael Munk gave a glimpse into his agency’s two-year investigation of a sect that former members say treated followers like slaves and often physically beat children who had no records of being born. That investigation led to the Sunday raid of the group’s Fence Lake compound and the arrest of four members.
While former members say the group was able to keep abuse quiet by training children not to talk to police, Munk said the sect also evaded the law by moving and operating in seclusion.
“They change their names. They change their locations,” Munk said.
On Friday, Cibola County Magistrate Judge Larry Diaz refused to lower bond for two of the group’s two leaders – both who face child sexual abuse charges. His decision came after Cibola County deputies arrested four other members Wednesday who authorities say were trying to flee in two vans full of children and about $1,000 in cash. Those adults were charged with failing to register the births of their 11 children.
The children were taken into state custody and are being interviewed by an FBI forensic expert, Munk said.
Diaz said, because of the recent arrests, he felt sect co-leader Deborah Green and high-ranking leader Peter Green were flight risks.
“The chain of events (is) getting more serious,” Diaz said. “Personally, I think it’s pretty horrifying.”
Both are being held on $500,000 cash surety bond in connection with child sexual abuses charges stemming from the Sunday raid of their secluded compound in western New Mexico. Court records had previously mistakenly listed that Peter Green was being held on $5 million.
Peter Green is also known as Mike Brandon and faces 100 counts of sexual penetration of a child after being accused of raping a girl at least four times a week from the time she was 7, according to court documents. Authorities say it’s Peter Green who comes from a wealthy family and helped buy up land where the group hid children at times when they came under suspicion.
James Green, the group’s co-leader, has angrily denied that his group had been involved in any child sexual abuse and called the charges “all fake.”
The group, founded in Sacramento, Calif., describes itself as “revolutionary for Jesus.”
Its website is laced with anti-Semitic language and anti-gay tirades about same-sex marriage. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the sect as a hate group.