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FLDS Leader On the Run After Charges of Welfare Fraud

FLDS Leader On the Run After Charges of Welfare Fraud

June 21, 2016 — The FBI has issued another arrest warrant for Lyle Jeffs, leader of the FLDS church, after he fled the law amid charges of welfare fraud.

Lyle Jeffs and 10 other leaders of the FLDS church were arrested in February. Prosecutors say he orchestrated a scheme to defraud Utah’s food stamp program (SNAP) to fund his polygamist cult.

Two months ago, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart released everyone from jail except Lyle Jeffs.

Judge Stewart wrote that Jeffs was a flight risk because he had a history of evading law enforcement, an international network of safe houses to hide, and armed body guards willing to take extreme measures to protect him.

On June 9, Judge Stewart released Jeffs from jail — apparently solely because the other 10 leaders were abiding by the terms of their release.

Jeffs was released from jail on the condition that he wear an ankle monitor and stay at a house near Salt Lake City until a trial in October. One week later, he was gone.

Lyle Jeffs owns property in South America. The FLDS also has an elaborate network of property in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

In 2015, $7.2 million in food stamp benefits was given to 700 households in the FLDS community known as Short Creek. Many of the beneficiaries are “unemployed single mothers” who are actually secondary wives in polygamist families.

According to the Justice Department, food and goods were taken from beneficiaries and redistributed to the entire church — with priority given to higher-ranking members, while the rest went hungry. Investigators know of at least $60,000 in welfare benefits that were used to buy a 2012 Ford F-350 truck and a John Deere tractor for church leaders.

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