PINE COUNTY - A former leader of a cult in Pine County has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting girls in his congregation.

Victor Barnard, 55, was sentenced Friday in Pine County District Court.

Earlier this month, he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct as part of a plea deal. He originally faced 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct.

Barnard is accused of sexually abusing two women when they were as young as 12. An investigation was launched after they came forward in 2012. It led to an international manhunt for Barnard, who was eventually found in Brazil and extradited.

The girls were were members of Barnard's River Road Fellowship, based near Finlayson. It was an offshoot of "The Way," a non-denominational Christian group.

The congregation had been in rural Pine County for more than a decade and relocated to Washington state in 2011.

The Pine County Attorney's office says the victims in the case approved the plea agreement.

According to court records, Barnard has been sent to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. He'll be credited for 609 days already spent in jail.

By Peter Cox, MPR News