PINE COUNTY, Minn. (KMSP) - Prosecutors say the followers of Victor Barnard are liquidating their assets to cover the $1.5 million bail set Monday. The cult leader accused of sexually abusing minors in his River Road Fellowship religious sect made his first court appearance Monday morning in Pine County, Minnesota. U.S. Marshals brought Barnard, 54, to Pine County on Saturday, June 18, marking the end of a lengthy extradition process from Brazil.
Bail was set at $1.5 million with conditions that include no contact with the victims, the surrender of Barnard’s passport and GPS monitoring. Bail was set at $3 million without conditions. Prosecutors were pushing for bail to be set as high as $7 million.
Four of Victor Barnard’s River Road Fellowship followers were in the courtroom Monday, as well as two victims.
FOX 9 INVESTIGATION LEADS TO CHARGES
Barnard faces 58 counts of sexually abusing teenage girls who were called “Maidens” in his religious group, The River Road Fellowship. As the FOX 9 Investigators revealed in February 2014, the woman said Barnard told them he was sexually indoctrinating the girls, sometimes even getting their parents’ permission.
Prosecutors declined to file charges in the case until the FOX 9 Investigation exposed Barnard and the group. The charges led to a global manhunt for Barnard, who was captured last year in Brazil in the company of one of his female followers. In court Monday, prosecutors said Barnard had an elaborate scheme that involved the use of pre-paid credit cards to get to Brazil.
ORIGINAL REPORT: Maidens of River Road
FOX 9 first reported the story in February 2014 when two women broke their silence about the cult, accusing Barnard of years of sexual abuse.
In April of 2014, prosecutors in Pine County charged Barnard with sexual misconduct. He then became the subject of an international manhunt, as investigators believed he had gone to Brazil, where he had other followers.
BRAZIL ARREST: Cult leader Victor Barnard arrested at Brazilian beach house
It wasn't until late February of 2015 that authorities arrested Barnard in the southern coast of Rio Grande do Norte, according to Globo, who reported he had been staying with a 33-year-old woman who was a known Barnard follower.
At the time of this arrest, he was on the U.S. Marshals' 15 most wanted list, and a $25,000 reward had been offered for his arrest. He was also one of the top fugitives wanted by Interpol.
In November 2015, Brazil media reported that Barnard tried to hang himself in a suicide attempt while in a federal prison in Brazil. But other reports indicated he may have been assaulted by fellow prisoners.
EXTRADITION APPROVED: Cult leader Victor Barnard to be extradited
This March, Brazil’s highest court, the Supremo Tribunal Federal, approved the extradition of Barnard to Minnesota.
Barnard was all set to be extradited in May, but then suddenly the process stalled. Multiples sources told FOX 9 Investigators the diplomatic snafu came down to the precise wording of the extradition agreement. As FOX 9 previously reported, Brazil’s Supreme Court said they would only release Barnard to U.S. custody if it is agreed that his sentence, if convicted of the charges in Minnesota, would not exceed 30 years in prison.
Sources said there was a flurry of diplomatic communiques between the U.S. Justice and State Department and authorities in Brazil, to try to iron out the issue.
But now finally, Barnard is back on U.S. soil behind bars.