Former Fargo Priest Accused of Molesting Two Teens Makes First Court Appearance
Bail for Fernando Sayasaya was set at $5 million
FARGO, N.D. — Fernando Sayasaya, the former Fargo Catholic priest accused of molesting two underage boys, made his initial court appearance.
Over the course of 19 years, it took the Fargo and West Fargo Police Departments, the FBI, U.S. Marshals and the Philippines national police to capture and bring former Catholic priest Fernando Sayasaya back to North Dakota.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say ‘we didn’t know if we’d ever get him back and most people probably didn’t think we’d get him back,” said Lieutenant Greg Warren with the West Fargo Police Department.
Sayasaya fled to the Philippines around Christmas of 1998 and was returned to Fargo last month.
He’s accused of molesting two teenage brothers between 1995 and 1998.
“You can’t absolutely say he’s absolutely guilty of what he did because of him running but it’s certainly a huge red flag when people do that,” Warren said.
Because of his past, prosecutors and the judge considered Sayasaya a flight risk at his first court appearance.
Bail was set at $5 million.
“He had made assurances that he would come back and he didn’t do that and so I know that the $5 million bail is rather extraordinary but under the circumstances, it is very appropriate,” said Tracy Peters, Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney.
Sayasaya faces 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
The Fargo Diocese removed Sayasaya from the church when allegations were made against him in 1998.
He was a priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo and Blessed Sacrament in West Fargo.
Cass County filed charges against him in 2002 and a federal indictment was returned against him in 2003.
“Some say this case isn’t just about Sayasaya finally facing his charges. Instead it’s that his victims can hopefully get some peace of mind,” Warren said.
“They have their right to have their day in court with him if that’s what it comes to. That’s more of what this is about. It’s about the victims and getting some closure.”
Sayasaya’s preliminary hearing is set for January 18 at 1 p.m.