Brazilian authorities have captured 53-year-old Victor Arden Barnard, a self-proclaimed minister who was on the FBI’s most wanted list for committing dozens of sex crimes with young girls. The arrest comes one year after a warrant was issued for Barnard’s arrest.
Following a two year investigation, Washington put out a warrant for Victor Barnard in 2014 for 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct. These crimes were committed while heading the River Road Fellowship near Finlayson, Minnesota, authorities say.
Barnard left Minnesota after his group splintered over allegations that Victor Arden Barnard was having sexual affairs with married women. He is believed to have then settled in Washington. According to reports, it is possible that Barnard had acquired a new following before his disappearance.
The Public Security Secretariat for the Rio Grande do Norte state government reported that Barnard was apprehended on Friday on a beautiful white sand beach in an apartment in northeastern Brazil. U.S. Marshals confirmed the statement.
Minnesota prosecutors say that Barnard lured girls as young as 12 in his congregation and convinced their parents to let them live in seclusion away from their families. There, they would be expected to fulfill a “biblical obligation” to have sex with Barnard.
“Barnard preached that he ‘represented Christ in the flesh’ and that because Jesus ‘had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him,’ it was normal for Barnard to have sex with them.”
Barnard required the girls to be virgins and unmarried when he “invited” them to live in “Alamoth,” a group within the cult designed for the cultivation of young girls. The affidavit said that Barnard told his followers that sexual relations with underage girls was in accordance with “God’s words.”
Barnard would often dress in priestly robes as he assaulted the victims, who were 12 and 13 at the time. According to the statements made by the victims, the girls treated the cult leader like a “rock star.”
In the statement, prosecutors said that Barnard was a “master manipulator” who had his followers completely under control. His vice-like grip on the cult was so strong that investigators had a hard time finding members who were willing to cooperate with the detectives. One of the mothers of the victims refused to let her daughter out of Barnard’s inner circle even after learning of the abuse.
The cult leader is currently being held in the city of Natal, awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face charges, each of which carries a maximum of 30 years in prison.