ST. GEORGE — Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs has fled house arrest, officials confirmed Monday, while awaiting trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
A warrant for Lyle Jeffs’ arrest was issued Sunday afternoon by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah said Monday.
Authorities said Lyle Jeffs fled sometime over the weekend.
U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart granted Lyle Jeffs’ request to be released from jail at a June 9 hearing after the trial on food stamp fraud and money laundering charges was delayed until October.
Stewart noted that the other 10 defendants in the case already released pending trial had complied with conditions set by the court.
Lyle Jeffs’ attorney, Kathryn Nester, argued that her client’s constitutional rights would have been violated if he were jailed until trial.
Under conditions of the release, Stewart ordered Lyle Jeffs to wear a GPS monitor and live in the Salt Lake City area – more than 300 miles from his community on the Utah-Arizona border – and have no contact with witnesses, co-defendants, any alleged victims or his brother, imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who was once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.
Prosecutors objected to his release, calling Lyle Jeffs a flight risk.
Lyle Jeffs and 10 others are accused of ordering FLDS members to hand over food stamp benefits to church leaders. Federal prosecutors claim the scheme exceeds $12 million in taxpayer dollars.
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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