Minnesota cult leader charged with felony sexual assault arrested in Brazil

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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.

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