Judge orders Seth Jeffs, leader in FLDS fraud case, released from jail

Law enforcement converged upon the communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, in connection with a federal indictment naming 11 leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on conspiracy and money laundering charges, Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Seth Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints polygamous sect in South Dakota, has been released from jail in a surprise decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City’s federal court.

Seth Jeffs, of South Dakota, booking photo posted Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News
Seth Jeffs, of South Dakota, booking photo posted Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Following his February arrest on a federal indictment alleging he was part of a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud and money laundering scheme, South Dakota Federal District Judge Danetta Wollman agreed with prosecutors that Seth Jeffs, the brother of incarcerated FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, is a flight risk.

Wollman denied Seth Jeffs’ pretrial release and ordered the South Dakota FLDS bishop be extradited to Utah to face allegations in the indictment. Seth Jeffs was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court Monday for a detention hearing. Stewart, instead, ordered his release pending trial Friday.

In an order setting the conditions of his release, Stewart is requiring Seth Jeffs to wear a GPS ankle monitor, surrender his passport and reside in St. George for at least the next 30 days. However, he is allowed to travel to South Dakota once a month to conduct water testing if he notifies U.S. marshals first.

In the order, Stewart forbade Seth Jeffs from traveling to Colorado City, Arizona, or from having any contact with those who are considered either alleged victims, potential witnesses and/or codefendants in the case, as well as Warren Jeffs and FLDS bishop Ben Johnson.

Federal prosecutors have argued that top FLDS leaders Seth Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs, John Wayman and Nephi Allred, all of whom were named in the indictment, are a “serious flight risk” and should not be released before trial. Prosecutors allege the four men aided Warren Jeffs in evading law enforcement a decade ago and had direct access to cash and an FLDS network of houses in the U.S., western Canada, Mexico and South America.

Lyle Jeffs booking photo, Davis County Jail, Utah, Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Davis County Sheriff's Office, St. George News
Lyle Jeffs, of Utah, booking photo posted Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Davis County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Stewart has now released three of those four men, who were initially ordered detained by other judges.

In all, 11 FLDS members were indicted in the food stamp case. Seven defendants were released after initial jail bookings.

Seth Jeffs’ release leaves only one defendant, his brother Lyle Jeffs, still behind bars out of 11 people charged. Lyle Jeffs’ status will be reviewed Wednesday before Stewart to determine if he will remain behind bars until trial.

A four-week jury trial in the matter is scheduled for May 31. The case will be heard in Salt Lake City’s federal court before Judge Ted Stewart.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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16 Comments

  • voice of reason April 4, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    When they flee, I hope Judge Stewart volunteers to stay in jail for them.

  • Real Life April 4, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    He is allowed to travel to South Dakota once a month to conduct water samples, and to conduct pedophile acts in the name of God.

    • .... April 8, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Oh so you’re saying he’s just like you eh !

  • .... April 4, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    The innocent should never be incarcerated

  • anybody home April 4, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Moroni must have spoken to Judge Stewart – either that or he wants in on the FLDS game. Either way, another example of Utah justice…the law spend time and money to bring these criminals in only to have them released by the court. Ridiculous.

  • Katherine April 5, 2016 at 1:05 am

    Why is this judge releasing these men who deny the authority of the Federal Government? I am not from Utah so maybe I just don’t understand: Is this a Mormon Judge releasing those he sees as god fearing men? Seems like these idiots are obvious flight risks and will endanger LEO who attempt to apprehend them.

    • RealMcCoy April 5, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      You cannot complain about the way the Feds work. If you agree with the way they handled the Bundy cases, then you cannot argue with them about this case.
      If you do, you have to consider that maybe the Feds are corrupt or……wrong!

      • .... April 5, 2016 at 10:54 pm

        The only thing wrong here is you . as usual

  • .... April 5, 2016 at 6:23 am

    He’s being framed he didn’t do it !

    • RealMcCoy April 6, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Yeah like the Judge cares what you think !

      • .... April 7, 2016 at 11:57 pm

        Yeah like I care what you think LOL !

  • SteveSGU April 5, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Judge Stewart will be held responsible for any future harm these people cause by abusing their freedom.

  • RealMcCoy April 5, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    He is forbidden to go to Colorado City, AZ but the judge said nothing about going to Hildale, UT. A wise decision concerning the Twin Cities.

    • .... April 5, 2016 at 10:51 pm

      Yeah like the Judge cares what you think !

  • ladybugavenger April 5, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    You’re released. Now, go and commit crimes in South Dakota! And be back here for court!

    • .... April 8, 2016 at 12:07 am

      He’s not a criminal ladybug. He’s being framed

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