FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A religious leader charged with using children as slave labor has died while awaiting trial in North Carolina.

Attorney Allen Rogers tells news outlets 67-year-old John C. McCollum died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at his ranch.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has said McCollum billed himself as the "chief apostle" of McCollum Ranch, the home of an "alternative religious group." Former members of the organization told authorities McCollum had made children aged 9 to 17 work as slaves at four fish markets, which provided income for his compound.

He was arrested in December and released in May, when his bail was lowered partly in light of his health. McCollum had told authorities he didn't think he'd committed any crimes.

Related cases against nine others are expected to move forward.