Victor Barnard, Fugitive Minnesota Cult Leader Accused Of Child Molestation, Captured In Brazil
The leader of a cult-like religious sect who was on the U.S. Marshall’s Most Wanted List has been arrested by Brazilian authorities and faces extradition for allegedly molesting two young girls.
Victor Arden Barnard, 52, was taken into custody Friday in northeastern Brazil, according to The U.S. Marshals Service.
“[We] coordinated efforts with law enforcement and military in Brazil and Barnard was taken into custody without incident,” the U.S. Marshals Service said in a media statement.
US Marshal’s just confirmed arrest of Victor Barnard in Brazil. pic.twitter.com/iQ0l4mb64B
— Tom Lyden (@LydenFOX9) February 28, 2015
Barnard led the River Road Fellowship in Minnesota and Washington state. The congregation is an offshoot of The Way International, a nondenominational Christian group, authorities said.
Court documents provided to The Huffington Post show Barnard is facing 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct related to two young women, who claim he abused them for nearly a decade at a church compound.
Since November, Barnard has been on the U.S. Marshall’s 15 Most Wanted List, with a $25,000 reward offered for information leading to his capture.
Brazil’s G1 News, citing a Brazilian military police official, reported Barnard was captured at an ocean view apartment in Rio Grande do Norte. A 33-year-old Brazilian woman was with Barnard and had allegedly been helping him hide.
Brazilian authorities said Barnard, who entered the country legally in 2012, was found with number of possessions, including diaries, computers and flash drives, G1 News reported.
Barnard is being held at the Federal Police headquarters in Christmas, pending formal extradition to the U.S.
Authorities in Washington state have been searching for Barnard since April 2014, when a warrant for his arrest was issued by prosecutors in Pine County District Court.
The two victims at the center of the charges, the criminal complaint alleges, were among several girls who lived at Barnard’s River Road Fellowship compound in Finlayson, Minnesota, which is located about 90 miles north of Minneapolis.
One of the alleged victims in the case contacted the Pine County Sheriff’s Office in January 2012 and told them she had been part of Barnard’s “Maidens Group,” which she claims was made up of young women between the ages of 12 and 24, who lived in an area of the compound referred to as the “Shepherd’s Camp.”
The woman told sheriff’s investigators she was 11 years old when her family joined the fellowship in 1998. Within two years, she alleged, Barnard began having sex with her.
“Barnard repeatedly preached to her that he represented Christ…