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Sexual abuse victims file lawsuits against Ignite Life Center and Florida Multicultural District Council of the Assemblies of God

The Ignite Life Center is located at 404 NW 14th Avenue in Gainesville, Florida.
Maria Fernanda Camacho/WUFT News
The Ignite Life Center is located at 404 NW 14th Ave. in Gainesville.

Three people are filing lawsuits against the Ignite Life Center in Gainesville and the Florida Multicultural District Council of the Assemblies of God in Orlando, alleging sexual abuse by a church member and attempts by the church to cover up the assault.

Horowitz Law attorneys Adam Horowitz and Jessica Arbour filed the lawsuits in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for Orange County against the church and the council on Tuesday.

The three plaintiffs say they were sexually abused by Gabriel Hemenez, a church member and volunteer, while attending a 2021 summer camp overseen by the church called Ignite Summer Internship.

Hemenez was arrested in July 2023 on charges related to abuse of the three minors.

The lawsuit follows Hemenez’ plea deal in Alachua County on March 6 in which Judge Phillip A. Pena found him guilty of two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation on a person between 12 and 16 years old, the offender being 18 years old or older, and one count of felony battery. All counts are second-degree felonies.

Hemenez was sentenced to five years in prison followed by eight years of supervised probation and lifelong registration as a sexual offender.

The lawsuit claims Hemenez also admitted to abusing another church member of Ignite Life Center leadership in 2019. The behavior was reported by the victim to Ignite Life leadership, but, according to the Gainesville Police Department, no action was taken to disrupt Hemenez’ membership within the camp, and the church allowed Hemenez to continue working with minors.

An affidavit fee for Attorney Javier Chavez, who represented Hemenez, shows the estimated amount of $9,200 remains to be paid by Hemenez’ mother, Carmen Hemenez.

The documents filed in Orange County state that the Ignite Summer Internship required children to live at Ignite Life Center for the duration of the program. The victim in this case lived in a dormitory assigned to him by the center and was required to surrender his phone and other means of communication as a condition of participation in the camp.

The mother of one of the victims said in a written statement she’s filing the lawsuit on behalf of her son to hold the church accountable.

“It is my hope that this lawsuit holds Ignite Life Center and the Assemblies of God Church accountable for their poor decisions, bad behavior, and, most importantly, the lives they have damaged,” she wrote. “Because of the carelessness of this leadership, some of these children may never recover, and some will never return to church again."

Hemenez is not the only one involved in sex cases related to Ignite Life Center. In July 2023, Christian Vargas, the son of the church’s head pastors Mark and Lisa Vega, was also arrested, and Noel Cruz, the son of assistant pastor Joey Cruz, was arrested in February 2024. Both defendants are facing charges of sexual abuse against persons between 12 and 16 years of age, and were released on bond. Vargas and Cruz expect their next court date to be in April.

Arbour, an attorney at Horowitz Law representing the three plaintiffs, said the lawsuits are the first of many planned to be filed against the church and the council.

"The abuse of children within a close-knit church community is devastating to those children, their families, and to an entire community faced with the idea that their church leaders have not always lived up to their word that children are safe and protected,” she wrote in the release by the law office.

Nicole is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing
Maria Fernanda Camacho is a Bilingual Journalist for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing