Minnesota cult leader charged with felony sexual assault arrested in Brazil


An international manhunt has led to the capture of a fugitive Minnesota cult leader who has been charged with molesting his young female followers.

FOX 9 reports that Victor Barnard, 53, has been taken into custody by authorities in Brazil. Quoting Brazilian media outlets, the Pioneer Press reports Barnard was arrested Feb. 27 in Rio Grande do Norte.

In April 2014, Barnard was charged with 59 felony counts of criminal sexual assault. The Pine County sheriff's office alleged that Barnard assaulted young women at his River Road Fellowship near Finlayson.

The Associated Press reported that a statement on the website of the Public Security Secretariat for the Rio Grande do Norte state government reported the arrest. The statement said police captured Barnard in an apartment near a white-sand beach in northeastern Brazil. He was being held in the city of Natal to await extradition.

The Star Tribune reports that Pine County authorities say they have not yet received official confirmation of the arrest. But the Brazilian news source Globo identifies Barnard. The Globo account indicated police confiscated Barnard's religious papers, diaries, computers, flash drives and cellphones. A 33-year-old Brazilian woman was taken into custody with him

Brazilian authorities said Barnard had been living for at least six months at the apartment where he was arrested located about 1,300 miles from Rio de Janeiro.

When a FOX 9 reporter showed a picture of Barnard in handcuffs, one of his accusers texted,“OMG, that's him!” Last year, that woman and another woman told the station that they had endured years of sexual abuse by Barnard..

A news release from the U.S. Marshals Service said the agency joined the manhunt for Barnard after he was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. It was thought that Barnard fled Minnesota for Washington state after some followers questioned his conduct with young women. He had been tracked to the Spokane area where the trail grew cold.

In November 2014, the U.S. Marshals Service placed him on its list of 15 Most Wanted fugitives.

You can view the FOX 9 original report on Barnard from 2014 here.

Next Up

Ky Thomas

Potts, Gopher defense dominate Buffaloes

Trey Potts ran for three touchdowns in a 30-0 victory in Boulder.

police tape, crime scene

Suspect dies by suicide after 11 hour standoff in Wisconsin motel

The standoff occurred at a motel in Balsam Lake.

U.S. district court minnesota - federal court

Four sentenced for home invasion on northern Minnesota reservation

The incident took place in October 2019 on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Screen Shot 2021-09-17 at 10.42.39 AM

4-year-old girl killed by falling branch in Mankato is identified

She is from South Dakota, and was attending the Mahkato Annual Traditional Powwow.

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 6.35.24 AM

No. 1 Lakeville South dominates No. 2 Eden Prairie

The Cougars ran away with the Class 6A showdown.

Lake Nokomis

Boy hospitalized after being rescued from Lake Nokomis has died

He was one of two children pulled from the Minneapolis lake.

39075 Shoreline Hwy, Westport, California - October 2017

Minneapolis man found dead at bottom of California cliff, half-brother arrested

The homicide happened near a beach park and campground for RVs located at the ocean.

uprooted tree in Burnsville

NWS: Tornadoes confirmed to have struck Apple Valley, Burnsville, Savage

A crazy night of storms may have included even more tornadoes.