12 children seized in alleged guru-healer group

Marcel Pontbriand



MONTREAL - Quebec authorities took 12 young children into custody Wednesday after they had contact with Marcel Pontbriand, an apocalyptic self-styled healer who has been hiding out in Arizona.

Police say the children, all under the age of 8, were intercepted in a vehicle at the Washington-BC border on Tuesday. The children were immediately flown to Montreal and taken into the custody of social workers.

Several Quebecers said their children and grandchildren had moved to Arizona over the past two years to live with Pontbriand.

They say he had convinced the parents that the world would end on December 12, 2012. Several relatives feared Pontbriand was planning a mass suicide.

"He called himself Jesus," the grandfather of one of the children told QMI Agency earlier this month. "He has a gun, the (followers) don't."

Child-protection services in Quebec had alerted US authorities that a group of children were in danger. The children taken into custody this week have been examined by a doctor and are believed to be in good health.

Pontbriand was last seen in Pima County, near Tucson, and has been on the run from Canadian authorities for two years.

Quebec's financial watchdog, the AMF, says Pontbriand also bilked 130 people out of $650,000.

He has pleaded guilty to 20 charges under financial-fraud laws.

Pontbriand is believed to be somewhere in the United States or Mexico but there's no indication so far that American police are actively looking for him.

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