19-Year-Old Sex Abuse Investigation Cracked with Arrest of Former Fargo Priest

A former priest in the Diocese of Fargo is in custody on charges that date back 19 years

FARGO, ND — A former priest in the Diocese of Fargo is in custody on charges that date back 19 years.

Fernando Sayasaya was arrested in the Philippines and is on his way back to Fargo to face those charges.

It’s been said the wheels of justice turn slowly, and in the case of a West Fargo family, it took 19 years.

Fernando Sayasaya, who fled to the Philippines after being accused of the sexual molestation of two West Fargo boys between 1995 and 1998, was finally taken into custody.

Lt. Greg Warren, who is the lead investigator on the case, says you don’t expect some of these cases to take this long.

“You stay with it and everybody stays together and the bottom line is team work, working together,” Lt. Warren said. “If you don’t work together this isn’t going to happen.”

Between 1995 and 1998, Sayasaya was working as a priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo and at Blessed Sacrament church in West Fargo.

In a statement to the media, the Fargo Diocese says they removed Sayasaya from priestly duties in August of 1998 when the allegations of abuse were first reported, but the charges didn’t come until 2002.

By that time, Sayasaya was no longer in the United States, but that didn’t mean investigators here and in the Philippines forgot about him.

“We got word a few weeks ago that they thought they had an opportunity to find him and get him into custody,” Cass County State’s Attorney, Birch Burdick, said. “They inquired as to if we still wanted him and would prosecute him if they brought him back here and our answer to that was yes.”

Time appears to be an ongoing theme in this case, but now, it may be on the side of the victims.

“What is interesting in the ensuing years from when we charged it in 2002 to now, this kind of activity has been elevated as higher level crime than it was back then,” Burdick said.

Which means if convicted of the crime, Sayasaya could face harsher penalties, allowing victims to perhaps get some closure.

“There’s things they’ve dealt with and maybe haven’t been able to put to rest that maybe they will be able to,” Lt. Warren said.

The U.S. Marshals Service says it could take several months before Sayasaya will be back in the U.S.

He must face legal proceedings in the Philippines before being extradited.

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