Méndez and Zaldívar sued for $5,000 each, although Méndez says that she actually gave the $5,000 claimed by Zaldívar.
Méndez, a 56-year-old Nicaraguan, says she lent $5,000 to Zaldívar in May 2012 to lend the church for the organization of Whit Sunday. She said Zaldívar gave her a personal check as collateral, but the check had no funds. El Nuevo Herald was not able to reach Zaldívar.
A month later, Méndez lent Cheverez another $5,000. This time she made the pastor sign a document reflecting the loan.
He is very persuasive, Méndez said. Three weeks after I joined the church, [Cheverez] called me to his office and asked me to lend him $30,000. Where was I going to get that kind of money?
In May, the court ruled that the pastor and his wife were to pay the $5,000 to Zaldívar. However, that has not happened yet, Méndez said.
In Méndezs case, Cheverez did not show up for a June 4 court citation.
That day the judge called me to his office to tell me that I had won the case, Méndez said.
Then he sent me to the criminal court to continue the process. And where is my money?
When the El Nuevo Herald team asked Cheverez about these lawsuits, he refused to answer, saying, Dont take pictures of me because I am a federal official and that is prohibited. If you do that, you will be in trouble. You cant even tape me.
Members of his congregation say that in his sermons, and especially during Bible studies, Cheverez refers to his part-time job with the Department of Homeland Security as immigration official.
His plaintiffs say that on workdays they could see him in church dressed in uniform, with handcuffs and a badge on his belt. Though no one claims that Cheverez has used his alleged position in the agency to get money, García and Méndez say that they have occasionally heard that the pastor had the authority to arrest people.
In fact, they both noted that on one occasion the pastor expelled a young Nicaraguan from church after threatening him with arrest for being and undocumented immigrant. He reportedly did not do it because the community asked him not to.
He didnt use it to get money, Méndez said, but I believe that many people do not speak up because of fear after he made them believe that he was an immigration official.
Reporter Enrique Flor contributed to this story.