Prosecutors have brought their first charges against self-proclaimed "spiritual healer" Joao Teixeira de Faria amid sexual abuse allegations by hundreds of women and girls, including his own daughter.
After being officially declared a fugitive of the law Saturday, and reportedly attempting to withdraw nearly $9 million from the bank, Faria turned himself into authorities on Sunday. Five days later, prosecutors leveled their first charges against him.
On Thursday, prosecutors in Abadiania — the central Brazilian town in which Faria runs his lucrative, world famous spiritual healing center — charged Faria with sexual violation through fraud, the Associated Press reports.
Since the first accuser, a Dutch choreographer, came forward on Brazilian television, over three hundred women and girls have informed authorities that he sexually abused them. One of his accusers is Faria's daughter.
Prosecutors say current state law, which requires victims to present their accusation within six months of the abuse, complicates the process since many of the women say they were abused years ago, AP notes.
Faria founded his psychic healing center in 1976, but he did not reach true international fame until he was promoted by Oprah Winfrey about five years ago. Since she produced a special focusing on his "spiritual healing" methods, which include channeling "spirits of the dead" and conducting surgery on patients suffering serious illnesses without anesthesia, his center attracts thousands of tourists annually, including several celebrities, among them Paul Simon, Naomi Campbell, and, according to some, Bill Clinton.
Winfrey has responded to the allegations against the man she helped promote. "I empathize with the women now coming forward and hope justice is served," she said. Simon has commented on his visit to the center by saying it ultimately failed to help him with his chronic "violent" dream problem.
The accusations against Faria began with a December 7 Rede Globo special featuring a Dutch choreographer who said she was sexually abused by the self-described healer. Within days, prosecutors in Goias, the state where Abadiania is located, said they had received hundreds of similar allegations. A week after the Rede Globo report, a judge issued a warrant for Faria's arrest, giving him until 2 p.m. the next day to turn himself in.
Before he finally gave himself up the next day, Faria attempted to withdraw almost $9 million from the bank, court documents revealed. The prosecutor's office also revealed that "investigators found firearms and large quantities of cash in a house used by de Faria as a spiritual retreat."
Along with superstitious reports about various eerie occurrences surrounding his arrest, local journalists report that some of his followers have harassed reporters and officials who have come to the center.
A few days after the first allegations came to light, Faria broke his silence in a public appearance before his followers and reporters in which he insisted he was innocent. "Brothers and my dear sisters, I thank God for being here," he told his followers and reporters. "I want to comply with Brazilian law. I am in the hands of the law. John of God is still alive."