June 19, 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.
Thomas Jeffs, a son of Lyle Jeffs, told Fox13 said he believed his father was homeless after being sent away by Lyle Jeffs’ brother, Warren Jeffs.
FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is imprisoned for life in Texas for having sex with a 12 year-old girl and a 15 year-old girl who got pregnant.
Lyle Jeffs was arrested after a tip from a pawn shop in Yankton, South Dakota, where he tried to sell some tools. He gave the name “Jeffs Lyle Steed” and popped up on the FBI’s most wanted list when the pawn shop owner Googled his name.
Jeffs was arrested at a recreation-area marina southwest of Sioux Falls. At a news conference, FBI Special Agent Eric Barnhart said:
“We have good reason to believe Mr. Jeffs had been in the area for at least two weeks and was living out of his car.”
Jeffs was arrested at least a 6-hour drive away from the FLDS Church compound in Pringle, South Dakota, which features a guard tower and the footprint of a development that may be the future site of a temple.
Prosecutors say Lyle Jeffs orchestrated a scheme to defraud Utah’s food stamp program, promising followers a higher rank in the afterlife for giving their benefits to the church.
Over $7 million in food stamp benefits was given to 700 households in the FLDS-dominated Short Creek community in 2015 alone, with many of the beneficiaries applying as “unemployed single mothers” when they were actually secondary wives in polygamist families.
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