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FLDS Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Warren Jeffs, leader of the FLDS polygamist sect of the Mormon Church, is serving life in prison for sex crimes with 12- and 15-year old girls. He also arranged marriages between church members and underage girls, including one between a 14 year-old girl and her cousin.

What You Can Do & How We Can Help

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting sexual abuse induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been abused in the FLDS church, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Sexual Abuse Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

UPDATE: Lyle Jeffs Arrested in South Dakota

June 2017 — Fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs has been arrested in South Dakota almost exactly 1 year after fleeing the law amid charges of using welfare fraud to finance his polygamist church. Click here to read more.

FLDS Hit With Another Discrimination Lawsuit

In October 2016, a federal lawsuit (PDF) was filed by ex-FLDS businessmen who say they were illegally arrested and discriminated against because they are not members of the church. Colorado City marshals arrested the men for trespassing on property they had leased from the UEP Trust. Click here to read more.

Fugitive Lyle Jeffs Releases Names of FLDS Members

One month on the run, fugitive Lyle Jeffs sent his brother a list of FLDS members who were “recommended” and “not recommended.” Click here to read more.

FLDS Leaders Arrested

August 2, 2016 — The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah has confirmed that FLDS bishops Seth Jeffs and John Wayman were arrested for violating terms of their pre-trial release. No details of the violation were provided. They are accused of ordering FLDS members to turn over food stamp benefits to church leaders to do with as they wished. Click here to read more.

FLDS Law Firm Sued by Sex Abuse Victims

July 13, 2016 — A lawsuit has been filed against Warren Jeffs and the law firm that helped him control the FLDS church.  Plaintiffs say the Salt Lake City-based law firm Snow, Christensen & Martineau (and specifically attorney Rod Parker) knew that Jeffs was engaged in illegal activity and helped him continue underage marriages. Click here to read more.

FLDS Leader Lyle Jeffs On the Run

June 20, 2016 — The FBI has issued another arrest warrant for Lyle Jeffs after he fled the law amid charges of welfare fraud. The judge knew he was a flight risk and released him anyway. Jeffs has 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. Click here to read more.

FLDS Forced Children to Work Pecan Farm

In June 2016, a federal judge found a company run by FLDS leaders to be in contempt of court for violating a 2007 order banning the use of child labor on a pecan farm in Southern Utah. Investigators say 175 children under 13 years old and 1,400 children and adults were forced to work long hours harvesting pecans for no compensation. Church leaders closed schools for the 2012-2013 harvest. Witnesses say they were threatened with losing their family and removal from the church if they refused. Click here to read more.

FLDS Child Bride Awarded $2.75 Million Settlement

May 6, 2016 — A child bride of the polygamist FLDS church has reached a $2.75 million settlement with the United Effort Plan Trust, which controls homes and the property in the “Short Creek” community. Click here to read more.


Utah Supreme Court Ruling Paves Way for Sex Abuse Victims to Seek Compensation from $110 Million Trust

The Utah Supreme Court will not dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former “child bride” of the polygamist FLDS church, paving the way for victims of sexual abuse to seek compensation from the $110 million trust that was once overseen by Warren Jeffs.

In November 2015, Elissa Wall filed a $40 million lawsuit against Jeffs and the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, which controls most of the homes and property of the church. The state of Utah took control of the $110 trust in 2005 and imposed reforms.

Last week, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the trust is not entitled to immunity from most of her claims. The ruling allows Elissa Wall to seek compensation from the trust for sexual abuse that was orchestrated by Jeffs and the church when she was a child.

Utah Supreme Court Justice Tomas Lee acknowledged that the trust beneficiaries include innocent third parties. However, Judge Lee said the trust should still be liable because Jeffs used it as his personal assets to advance his own interests:

“Given Jeffs’ unique role as leader of the FLDS Church, and in light of the unusual, troubling function of plural marriage involving young brides in the FLDS culture, we hold that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that Jeffs was acting within the scope of his role as a trustee in directing Steed to engage in sexual activity with [Wall].”

Wall claims she was just 14 years old when she was forced to marry her 19 year-old first cousin, Allen Steed, in 2001. Warren Jeffs presided over the ceremony. Over the next three years, she was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by her husband. When she tried to run away, she was returned to her husband on the directive of Jeffs. By the age of 17, she had suffered four miscarriages and a stillborn child.

Elissa Wall eventually escaped the church and married another former member. In 2007, her testimony about Warren Jeffs’ role in arranging her marriage led to his conviction on two counts of rape as an accomplice and a minimum of 10 years in prison. The verdict was later overturned on a technicality.

FLDS “Lost Boys” Report Sexual Abuse

In October 2015, two children of Warren Jeffs alleged that he sexually abused them as children. Becky and Roy Jeffs, both adults who have left the church, came forward on the CNN show This is Tonight.

Another victim, Brent Jeffs, comes from royal blood in the FLDS community. His grandfather was a prophet and his uncle is Warren Jeffs. Despite his lineage, he was expelled from the church along with dozens of “Lost Boys” as part of a mass-excommunication undertaken soon after Warren seized power in 2002.

In 2004, he filed a civil lawsuit claiming that Warren Jeffs sexually abused him when he was 5 years old, telling him “This is between me, you and God.” He also testified in 2011 as part of a trial that ended in Warren being convicted of sex crimes with 12- and 15-year-old girls.

In addition to girls, Brent said many boys were abused — including his two brothers — at the hands of his relatives during church and school functions. He told told ABC News

“[Warren] began to tell me that we were going to do God’s will. … He would escort me down the hall and into the bathroom and molest me as a kid. Threatening eternal damnation if I did not do exactly what he said.”

In 2009, Brent published a a memoir titled Lost Boy describing his rape and molestation. He also described heartbreaking experiences as one of the “expendable” young men who are cut off from their families and forced to leave the FLDS community.

Polygamist Towns Found Guilty of Discrimination

A jury in Phoenix has awarded $2.2 million to six residents of Short Creek after finding that the municipal government violated the constitutional rights of non-FLDS members by denying police protection, building permits, and basic utilities.

In one example, Warren Jeffs ordered police to return an underage bride to her new husband after she ran away. In another example, police rounded up and shot all the dogs in the town after Jeffs banned pets.

The lawsuit was filed by Robert and Jinger Cooke, a family who moved to Short Creek in 2008. The family was denied water, electricity, and sewage for years.

Early in the trial, former City Marshal Helaman Barlow admitted that law enforcement ignored underage marriages and spied on the Cooke family looking for evidence that Mr. Cooke was faking his disabilities as a way to deny water hookups.

Prosecutors with the Justice Department say the Colorado City Marshal’s Office carried out orders from Jeffs, acted as “security guards” for the church, ignored crimes against non-believers, harassed outsiders, and used surveillance cameras to spy on the town.

FBI Arrests FLDS Leaders for Food Stamp Fraud

In Februry 2016, the FBI has indicted 11 leaders and members of Warren Jeffs’ polygamist FLDS church for defrauding the food stamp program and money laundering. U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said: “This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud.”

Last year, about $7.2 million in food stamp benefits was given to about 700 households in the Hildale-Colorado City community (collectively known as “Short Creek”), state officials in Arizona and Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune. Because polygamists only seek marriage licenses for their first marriage, secondary wives are regarded as single mothers when applying for food stamp benefits.

Prosecutors claim that in 2011 — the same year Warren Jeffs was convicted of sexually assaulting 12- and 15-year old girls — Lyle Jeffs instituted the “United Order” in the FLDS church. Members were required to transfer their food stamp benefits to the church.

They were only allowed to obtain food and household goods at FLDS-controlled storehouses. The food was redistributed to people who were not eligible for food stamp benefits, with priority given to higher-ranking members of the church.

Prosecutors say food stamp cards were used for bogus transactions in FLDS stores, then the government was billed. The proceeds from this scheme were used for ineligible purchases, such as a John Deere tractor, a 2012 Ford F-350 pickup truck, and $17,000 worth of paper products in March 2015.

FBI Raids Washakie Renewable Energy – FLDS Polygamist Kingston Group

On February 10, 2016, federal agents also raided the Utah offices of Washakie Renewable Energy, a business associated with a polygamist family known as the Kingston Group. Washakie is run by Jacob Kingston, son of John Daniel Kingston. John Daniel heads the 1,200-member polygamist clan, runs a $150 million business empire in Utah, and is estimated to have 100 children by 14 wives.

In 1998, John Daniel was jailed for beating his 16 year-old daughter into unconsciousness after she ran away from an arranged marriage to her uncle. The uncle, David Ortell Kingston, served a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of incest and unlawful sexual activity.

Last year, Washakie was fined $3 million by the EPA over allegations it “failed to produce any biodiesel” at its facility in Plymouth, but collected $2 million dollars in federal subsidies. News of the raid surprised lawmakers in Utah, many of whom have received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the group in recent years.

What is FLDS?

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) is a secretive religious sect that broke away from mainstream Mormonism when the latter banned polygamy in 1890. Afterward, some polygamist men continued to live with their wives in secret and were sent to remote settlements to start polygamist colonies.

One of those settlements was Short Creek, established in the 1930s on the Arizona-Utah border — about 400 miles away from suburban Salt Lake City where Warren Jeffs was born in 1955. His father, Rulon Jeffs, became the FLDS prophet in 1986.

Warren Jeffs Becomes Prophet of FLDS

After a series of strokes left Rulon mentally incapacitated, Warren Jeffs assumed power in Short Creek in the late 1990s. When Rulon died in 2002, Warren became the new prophet and married many of his father’s wives. That same year, Warren came under investigation for child rape in Utah and fled the law.

“Yearning for Zion” Ranch in Texas

In 2003, Jeffs began developing the Yearning for Zion Ranch, a 1,700-acre compound located in a remote part of Texas. He became obsessed with the idea of “perfect obedience,” banned TV and Internet, and controlled everything from clothing to marriage to children’s toys.

Arranged Marriage Between 14 Year-Old Girl and Cousin

In 2005, Arizona authorities indicted Jeffs on charges of sexual abuse. He was later convicted of arranging a marriage between 19 year-old Allen Steed with his 14 year-old first cousin Elissa Wall in 2001. Wall testified that she expressed concern about being too young for marriage and said she did not want to marry her cousin.

According to court documents, Jeffs presided over the marriage and told the girl to give her “mind, body and soul and obey without question.”

Warren Jeffs Arrested for Sexual Abuse

In 2006, the FBI put Jeffs on its Ten Most Wanted List for multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors and arranging marriages between his followers and underage girls. He was arrested after a routine traffic stop in Las Vegas and convicted of child rape in 2007, but the sentence was overturned.

FBI Raids Zion Ranch and Removes Children

In 2008, the FBI raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch after an anonymous caller reported sexual abuse. Police removed about 468 children from the ranch. The children were returned after the courts ruled that they were not in imminent danger. However, the raid yielded a trove of evidence against Jeffs.

Jeffs Convicted of Sex With 12 and 15 Year-old Girls

In 2011, Jeffs went on trial for two “celestial marriages” — one with a 12 year-old girl and another with a 15 year-old girl who later became pregnant. During the trial, prosecutors played an audiotape of the assault on the 12 year-old girl and read excerpts from his journals. According to CNN, a man’s voice on the tape says:

“You have to know how to be sexually excited and to help each other … and you have to be ready for the time I need your comfort. … This is your mission. This is how you abide the law.”

At one point, the man says, “Take your clothes off. Do it right now,” followed by the sounds of crying. “Just don’t think about the pain; you’re going to heaven,” he says.

Prosecutors revealed that Jeffs had more than 70 wives, about a third of which were underage girls. Jeffs was quickly convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years. He was also sued by his nephew, Brent Jeffs, for raping him repeatedly when he was between 5 and 7 years old. Despite being in jail, Jeffs is still the prophet and maintains control of the FLDS church.

Men Forced to Watch Wives Raped By “Seed Bearers”

One of the most disturbing commandments from the imprisoned Jeffs is that FLDS men are no longer permitted to have children with their multiple wives. Only men of a “royal bloodline” can have children, and only with women who have been selected to the United Order.

These men are called “Seed Bearers,” according to Charlene Jeffs, estranged sister-in-law of Warren Jeffs. She wrote about the practice in a petition seeking custody of her two teenage children in Hildale:

“It is the husband’s responsibility to hold the hands of their wives while the ‘seed bearer’ spreads his seed. In layman terms, the husband is required to sit in the room while the chosen seed bearer, or a couple of them, rape his wife or wives.”

Couple Wins $5.3 Million Lawsuit After Short Creek Refuses Water

In March 2014, a jury awarded $5.3 million to Ronald and Jinjer Cooke for religious discrimination they faced in Short Creek. Most of the 8,000 residents and government leaders are FLDS, making it the largest polygamist enclave in the United States.

The city is accused of denying water, electricity, police protection, and other services to outsiders as a way to limit who could live in the community. The local police also have a reputation for returning fleeing sexual abuse victims to their abusers and enforcing church laws.

The Cooke family is not part of the FLDS church and they claim to have faced nothing but harassment from their polygamist neighbors. They say the local municipal government has been “hijacked” by Warren Jeffs and members of the FLDS church.

When the Cooke family moved in, the city refused to hook up electricity, sewage, and water for their home. This caused significant problems for Ronald, who is disabled and must use a breathing machine.

The city eventually turned on sewage and electricity, but the family lived without running water for more than five years. They eventually had to buy a massive storage tank. A spokesman for Short Creek said there was a water shortage, but during trial a former FLDS member said he started a water bottling company in the Short Creek area.

Do I have a FLDS Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting sexual abuse induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been abused in the FLDS church, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Sexual Abuse Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

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