Adultery, financial-mismanagement accusations leveled against ministry of ‘biker pastor.’
For several years, former members of the Anaheim, California-based religious organization Set Free have claimed there is more to this offbeat group than meets the public eye.
In recent months, several of Set Free’s top leaders have left, alleging financial irregularities, adultery, and authoritarian control as their chief concerns.
Led by “biker pastor” and ex-convict Phil Aguilar, Set Free began as a church of about 200 in 1982. Over the years it acquired various properties, including homes for ministry leaders and ranches where young people were sent to overcome addictions to drugs and alcohol.
Spurred by Aguilar’s regular appearances on Paul Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network, the organization’s numbers took off, with attendance at Sunday services reaching an average of 5,000 by 1991. Today, that number has dropped to under 400, according to ministry spokesperson Lois Trader.
Confronting the pastor
Former elder John Ohanian left Set Free in June after he and two other elders approached Aguilar with what Ohanian describes as “some very serious issues related to financial accountability and the appearance of immorality.” Ohanian says Aguilar “refused to discuss anything with us.”
Among the elders’ concerns was adultery, which, Ohanian charges, was taking place among Set Free leaders. “I have no proof that Phil was involved in that,” says Ohanian. “If he wasn’t, he was guilty of bad judgment.”
Stacee Aguilar left Set Free in late June upon discovering what she considered irrefutable evidence that Geronimo Aguilar—her husband and Phil’s son—was sexually involved with a 14-year-old girl.
‘Believe the best’
In 1991, Set Free attorneys wrote several ...1
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