Lyle Jeffs, fugitive polygamous leader, wants charges dropped

The FBI has issued a wanted poster calling Lyle Jeffs armed and dangerous. | Composite photo, St. George News
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs is a fugitive after slipping out of a GPS ankle monitor last month, but that isn’t stopping his attorneys from asking a judge to drop food stamp fraud charges against him.

Jeffs’ religious freedom rights allow him and others in the sect to share food stamp benefits as part of their communal living, his attorneys contend in a new court filing Tuesday.

Like Amish who don’t send their children to public high school, members of the polygamous group on the Utah-Arizona border believe not donating their food stamp benefits would go against their religious beliefs and “endanger their own salvation,” attorneys wrote.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, has been using a community storehouse model since the 1970s, attorneys say.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah declined comment, saying it will respond in an upcoming filing to the court.

Lyle Jeffs and 10 other FLDS members were arrested and indicted in February on charges of diverting at least $12 million worth of federal benefits.

Prosecutors say sect leaders instructed followers to buy items with their food-stamp cards and give them to a church warehouse, where leaders decided how to distribute products to followers.

They say food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

Authorities say Jeffs likely used olive oil or another lubricant to slip off his GPS ankle monitor and escape home confinement last month in Utah.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Yi Barker said Tuesday Jeffs may have been driven away in a dark, late-model Ford Mustang that neighbors saw at his house June 18.

The 56-year-old Jeffs was supposed to be on home confinement in Salt Lake City pending trial in an alleged multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme.

He escaped less than two weeks after he was released from jail by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart. The judge pointed out 10 other defendants from the group had already been released and obeyed court’s conditions.

Prosecutors objected to his release, calling Jeffs a flight risk.

The FBI has since issued a wanted poster calling Jeffs armed and dangerous.

Lyle Jeffs is the brother of the sect’s highest leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of sexually assaulting girls he considered brides. Lyle Jeffs runs day-to-day operations in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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  • ladybugavenger July 13, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Hahahahahaha! No!

  • 42214 July 13, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Jeffs wanting charges dropped is like Hillary wanting to be thought of as honorable. Wanting for self serving reasons doesn’t make it happen.

    • Real Life July 13, 2016 at 11:29 pm

      Jeffs is the lowest of low. Clinton is a close second.

      • .... July 14, 2016 at 8:58 am

        Your lower than Jeff’s ! Ha ha ha ha gotcha ! Woooohoooooo how do I do it eh ? oh let me guess uhhh uhhh oh I know ! another one of your stupid meds comment …yawwwwnnnnn

        • Real Life July 14, 2016 at 10:09 am

          Dope. Get off the dope son, it’s making you stupid.

    • Henry July 14, 2016 at 11:53 am

      42214 – great analogy. Jeffs and Hillary would make good cell mates, tormenting one another.

  • Bob July 13, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    food stamp scam u say? well hey, Joseph Smith woulda done the same thing. the whole religion is founded on scams and schemes

    • SteveSGU July 14, 2016 at 11:17 am

      Bob is one of a number of non-thinking people who spout off with all kinds of nonsensical comments about the Latter-day Saints and their religion. Anybody who knows anything about Joseph Smith knows that he would not have concocted such a scheme, and the religion was not founded upon any scam.

      • Chris July 14, 2016 at 9:56 pm

        Maybe you’d like to explain the Kirtland Safety Society, and then tell us again how Joseph Smith “would not have concocted such a scheme.”

      • .... July 15, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        Yeah that Dumbob does have a big mouth doesn’t he ?

  • Hugh Jass July 14, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Of course he wants the charges dropped…. and people in Hell want ice water!

  • rusty shackleford July 14, 2016 at 8:27 am

    What other laws can we break in the name of religion?

  • riccie July 14, 2016 at 8:30 am

    If I remember correctly judges are not above the law. Why is there not more public outcry toward him?

  • riccie July 14, 2016 at 8:30 am

    I mean U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart of course

  • old school July 14, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Is there a reward out for his capture? It was pretty obvious he was going to run, there’s gotta be at least one bright boy (or girl) who tailed him and is just sitting back waiting for the $$$

  • 42214 July 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    He wants the Hillary treatment

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