"Rabbi" Elior Chen, who fled Israel to Brazil to escape allegations of his involvement in numerous cases of the most horrific child abuse in recent memory, reportedly turned himself in to Brazilian law enforcement authorities in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
However, police in Brazil later said Chen did not surrender, but rather, was nabbed after he was identified on the street.
Authorities expect he will be extradited back to Israel within the coming days.
Chen has been identified as the leader of a group of religious parents some have called a cult, to which he provided the "spiritual inspiration" that led his followers to torture their children.
Among Chen's victims are a three-year old toddler and his four-year-old brother, and police investigators believe it was Chen who ordered their mother to inflict severe emotional, mental and physical harm on the children - which rendered the toddler in a permanent vegetative state.
A grave indictment was filed against the children's mother, who was arrested after her sons were hospitalized. It included multiple counts of aggravated assault, child abuse and the endangerment of minors. She has repeatedly claimed she was acting on Chen's instructions.
Throughout the duration of the extensive worldwide manhunt launched by Israeli authorities in pursuit of the elusive "rabbi", Chen – from his hiding place and through his attorneys – has fiercely professed his innocence; saying all he did was "assist in the education of damaged children," adding he was only preaching "legitimate educational values."
The police have tried to convince Chen to turn himself in since first learning of his getaway, be it through the Jerusalem Police, Interpol, the police attaché in South American or through the International Crimes Division in the Justice Ministry. Once extradited to Israel, Chen is expected to face a lengthy police investigation.
Israeli police made the Interpol's involvement in the case known just earlier in the week, only saying that Interpol officers "are searching for Elior Chen in Brazil." The matter was reportedly kept under wraps for fear Chen would glean knowledge of the development and use the tip-off to flee to a different country.
Once located, Brazilian welfare authorities removed Chen's children from his custody and that of his wife's. The children, three months to seven years of age, were later returned to their mother and she was allowed to leave Brazil for Belgium.
Chen's attorney claimed the move was devised by Israeli police in an attempt to pressure his client into turning himself in. Sources in the police department denied the allegation.