Fugitive polygamous sect leader arrested in South Dakota

Frederick Owens
June 19, 2017

Lyle Jeffs, brother of the imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Warren Jeffs, was arrested last night in South Dakota.

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

He had been on the run since he fled house arrest on June 18, 2016, in Salt Lake City, awaiting trial with other leaders of the religious sect on charges they diverted money from a federal government food assistance program for the poor, authorities said.

"The bureau announced its capture in a Thursday morning tweet: "#ARRESTED: "FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs in custody after almost a year on the lam".

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.

Lyle Jeffs' brother, FLDS President Warren Jeffs, is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls aged 12 and 15.

Jeffs complied with officers when he was arrested near the small town of Yankton in the southeastern corner of South Dakota, Barnhart said.

The FBI received a tip from a citizen Tuesday, which included a partial description of Jeff's vehicle. The FBI said he appeared to have used olive oil to slip free from his GPS-enabled ankle monitor and go on the lam. An off-duty Yankton police detective spotted the vehicle and believed it was Jeffs.

Barnhart said he expects Jeffs to be back in the state in the next few days.

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Jeffs will likely face at least one new felony charge connected to his time on the run, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said.

Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City on January 21, 2015. He had been charged in a multi-million-dollar food stamp fraud case.

The fraud scheme, according to prosecutors, operated by Jeffs and other leaders instructing sect followers to purchase items with food stamp cards, then, give to an FLDS warehouse. They say food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return.

In August 2016, federal authorities announced they were offering a $50,000 reward to the person or persons who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of Lyle Jeffs and elevated Jeffs to the FBI's "Most Wanted" list.

Nine of them accepted plea deals and on had his charges dismissed.

Of the 11 people originally indicted in the case, Lyle Jeffs is the only one still facing charges.

"Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Lyle, some FLDS businessmen and the church itself to pay fines totaling nearly $2 million for using children and unpaid labor during a 2012 pecan harvest".

Jeffs and the other defendants claimed that they were sharing food and that it was a facet of their communal living.

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