The leader of an apocalyptic sect in northeastern New Mexico was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony sex crimes against children.
State police arrested Wayne Bent, 66, on three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson.
Bent was being held on $500,000 bond at the Union County Detention Center in Clayton and was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.
According to the affidavit for the arrest warrant, Bent is alleged to have touched three girls in 2006 and 2007. All of them were under 18 at the time, and one of them was 12.
Bent, who goes by the name of Michael Travesser and claims to be the Messiah, is the leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, whose members moved in 2000 to a remote, former ranch near the Colorado line.
The state Children, Youth and Families Department recently had removed two girls and one boy from the site, and said it was interviewing a third girl who had left the compound earlier.
Those three girls are the same girls cited in the affidavit, according to Olson.
A posting on the church’s Web site attributed to Bent’s grown son, Jeff Bent, said his father was arrested on “false charges.”
Bent has acknowledged having sex with followers — including his daughter-in-law — and lying naked with virgins. He said the virgins asked for sex, but he refused.
In a posting on the church’s Web site, he denied that there was any molestation of children or adults at the community, which Bent’s followers call Strong City. A former member of the sect has estimated there are about 50 people on the compound. The three children removed last month are believed to have been the only minors there.
Bent accused the state of kidnapping the children.
A posting attributed to Bent on the church’s Web site Monday said:
“Jesus had not committed any crimes, so the authorities had to invent some crimes to crucify him over. It is the same for me also. I have committed no crimes, but many crimes are being imagined and concocted in the minds of men to try and kill me again.”
Bent had predicted the end of the world last Oct. 31.