11 leaders and members of a polygamous church sect based in northern Arizona and southern Utah face prosecution for food stamp fraud and money laundering. The federal indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints illegally diverted food stamps that were used for unauthorized purchases.
FLDS Food Fraud, Money Laundering Roundup
A news release alleged that, for example, food stamps were diverted from legitimate recipients and converted to cash to buy such things as an expensive pickup truck and a tractor.
Those arrested Tuesday include Lyle Steed Jeffs, the 56-year-old who is alleged to be leading the FLDS while his brother, the Prophet Warren Jeffs is serving prison time in Texas for sex offenses involving underage girls. Another brother of the Prophet, Seth Steed Jeffs, was arrested in South Dakota, where another FLDS congregation resides.
“This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber. “This indictment charges a sophisticated group of individuals operating in the Hildale-Colorado City community who conspired to defraud a program intended to help low-income individuals and families purchase food.”
Some of those arrested Tuesday face initial Wednesday court appearances in Salt Lake City and St. George in Utah, and in Custer County, South Dakota.