ST. GEORGE – Three more members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints entered pleas of not guilty in federal court in St. George Friday on the heels of a federal indictment alleging they were part of a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud and money laundering scheme.
In shackles and jail jumpsuits, Nephi Steed Allred, Preston Yates Barlow and Hyrum Bygnal Dutson appeared in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert T. Braithwaite, after Allred surrendered himself to law enforcement Thursday and Preston Barlow and Hyrum Dutson surrendered themselves Friday.
Hyrum Dutson was represented by private attorney Tyler Todd, while Nephi Allred, who will be represented by Jon Williams, and Preston Barlow, who will be represented by Scott Williams, were found to be indigent by the court and appointed public defenders.
The men are three of 11 members of the FLDS polygamous sect, which has historically claimed the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, as home base. They were each charged in a two-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court, District of Utah, Tuesday for conspiring to defraud the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Federal prosecutors argue that top FLDS leaders Lyle Steed Jeffs, Seth Steed Jeffs, John Clifton Wayman, all of whom were named in the indictment and arrested Tuesday, and Allred are a “serious flight risk” and should not be released before trial.
Prosecutors have filed a motion to detain the defendants named in the indictment, citing an elaborate system for moving and hiding members of the FLDS group to avoid detection by law enforcement. The system includes apartments and houses in the U.S., western Canada, Mexico and South America, according to the prosecution’s motion, and was originally developed to protect the church’s leader, Warren Jeffs, from prosecution.
A detention hearing for Allred to determine if he will be jailed pending trial is set for Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
Terms and stipulations for Preston Barlow’s and Hyrum Dutson’s early pretrial release were agreed upon by both sides prior to their initial appearance. Braithwraite subsequently ordered a speedy release for the two men once they were taken back to Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility for processing.
Winford Barlow, Ruth Barlow and Kristal Dutson, also named in the indictment, were arrested Tuesday and booked into Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility. The three entered pleas of not guilty in St. George’s federal court Wednesday and were released from custody Thursday under supervised release, which includes travel restrictions and GPS ankle monitors.
The federal indictment alleges Allred, Preston Barlow and Hyrum Dutson participated at meetings in which FLDS leaders directed members to fraudulently divert their SNAP benefits to the FLDS Storehouse in Hildale.
In order to conceal and disguise the involvement of the FLDS Storehouse, according to the indictment, Allred orchestrated the organization of Quality Wholesale Distributors, where he served as general manager and supervised the daily operations of the business, while knowing that the activity of the business facilitated government fraud.
While allegedly knowing the activity of the businesses facilitated the unlawful diversion of SNAP funds to the FLDS church, according to the indictment, Preston Barlow took over managerial control of dairy store Meadowayne and its bank accounts, and Hyrum Dutson served as the general manager of Vermillion Cliff’s Produce store with signatory control of its bank accounts.
With the intent, in whole or in part, to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds, the indictment alleges, Preston Barlow and Hyrum Dutson transferred SNAP fraud proceeds to FLDS business accounts.
On Wednesday, FLDS leaders Lyle Jeffs and John Wayman also pleaded not guilty to the two-count indictment in federal court in Salt Lake City. A hearing for Wayman to determine if he will be jailed pending trial was scheduled for Friday. A similar hearing for Lyle Jeffs is set for March 7. A hearing for Seth Jeffs in South Dakota was delayed until Monday.
As this report is published, Kimball Dee Barlow, 51, and Rulon Mormon Barlow, 50, named in the indictment, are still at large.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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