Brazil branches of US-based church target of numerous probes

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian authorities say they have launched several investigations connected to two local branches of Word of Faith Fellowship, a secretive evangelical sect based in North Carolina.

Authorities are investigating whether a picture-framing factory connected to the Franco da Rocha-based church broke labor laws. Investigators say they also are probing how land bought in the name of that branch ended up being legally owned by two pastors.

Education ministries in both Franco da Rocha and Sao Joaquim de Bicas (Sow Gwa-quim ge Bicas) are investigating several allegations related to church schools.

The investigations were spurred by Associated Press stories in July detailing allegations that Word of Faith Fellowship funneled young Brazilians congregants to the U.S. and forced them to work at church-affiliated businesses for little or no pay.