Thursday, 29 June, 2017

Polygamous sect leader captured after year on run

Lyle Jeffs, fugitive polygamist, captured in South Dakota after almost a year on the run FLDS church leader Lyle Jeffs in South Dakota jail
Heather Davidson | 16 June, 2017, 06:27

The leader of the fundamentalist Mormon church who escaped authorities almost a year ago is in jail in South Dakota.

The FBI in Salt Lake City tweeted that Mr Jeffs, 57, had been arrested in South Dakota.

According to the FBI's wanted poster, Jeffs was on home confinement while awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in a food stamp fraud case when he escaped.

The federal charges Lyle Jeffs faced when he fled were related to the FLDS church's alleged fraudulent use of $12 million in food stamps.

Lyle Jeffs is a brother of Warren Jeffs, who is considered the prophet of the sect and is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for illegally marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.

Jeffs is jailed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said Minehaha County Jail Warden Jeff Gromer.

At the time of Lyle Jeffs' arrest, prosecutors and one of the man's estranged sons said they believed the FLDS leader would run if released, using the same plans and resources believed to have kept Warren Jeffs out of the reach of the law in 2006. Days later, Lyle Jeffs disappeared after investigators say he used olive oil to slip a Global Positioning System ankle monitor off his foot without triggering an alarm.

Members of the sect believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

FILE - This undated photo provided by the FBI Salt Lake City Division shows Lyle Jeffs. Barnhart said they do not know yet if he spent time there during his year on the lam.

The information provided by the tipster - including a description of the make, model, color and plate of Jeffs' vehicle - was "absolutely instrumental" to tracking down Jeffs, Barnhart said.

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As Radar reported, Jeffs went on the run less than two weeks after a U.S. District Judge released him from jail on supervised home release. This indictment is about fraud, ' U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said in a statement.

Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs.

The FLDS is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

"Now I hope the media asks tough questions as the US Attorney's office does their job this time", said Brower in a message to us this morning. The laundered cash allegedly was used on big-ticket items such as a $30,000 pickup truck, a $14,000 tractor and $17,000 in paper products.

Nine of the people arrested alongside Lyle Jeffs have since accepted plea deals, and one person had his charges dismissed.

Federal prosecutors will be under pressure from critics of the sect who believe federal prosecutors went too easy on the other defendants. Known to the faithful as "R23", the compound sits along a gravel road, secluded by tall pine trees, a privacy fence and a guard tower.

The defendants denied wrongdoing and said they were sharing food as part of their communal living practices. "They feel god protected them".

Authorities have said the South Dakota congregation is led by Seth Jeffs, brother of Lyle and Warren Jeffs.

A detailed 2016 profile in the Salt Lake City Tribune portrayed Lyle Jeffs as a braggart with a temper, who enforced the rules at the FLDS compound with little mercy.

The secretive group's base has caused concerns among nearby landowners in western South Dakota.

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