FLDS member receives get out of jail free card with guilty plea

John Wayman, Washington County, Utah, booking photo posted August 2016 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — One of the 11 defendants charged in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case has been released from jail after striking a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Initially charged with one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the nutrition assistance program and one count of conspiracy to launder money, John Clifton Wayman, 57, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a lesser count of using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits contrary to the law.

His plea agreement came hours after U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart rejected a request to release Wayman and Seth Jeffs – brother to imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs – from jail pending trial. The judge had agreed with federal prosecutors that the two men couldn’t be trusted to follow the court’s orders and shouldn’t be released from jail.

Wayman, a former bishop for the polygamous sect, had been in jail for six months after being arrested for violating a court order prohibiting him to have contact with other defendants. However, after the deal was signed Thursday, Wayman was immediately released from Davis County Jail with time-served.

In the plea deal with federal prosecutors, Wayman admitted in U.S. District Court that he knowingly diverted Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program benefits totaling at least $5,000 to people who weren’t eligible to receive them.

Under the deal, Wayman will not have to serve probation, does not have to pay a fine or restitution – other than a $100 court fee – and does not have to testify or cooperate with the government. Federal prosecutors and the FBI have also agreed not to pursue charges against Wayman for any other crimes that they may be aware of. He also must attend a Department of Agriculture training class on the proper use of SNAP benefits.

Wayman was among 11 defendants indicted in February on food stamp fraud and money laundering charges for allegedly diverting at least $12 million worth of food stamp benefits from FLDS members. Prosecutors had alleged that Wayman was one of the church leaders who counseled sect members to turn over their SNAP benefits to the FLDS Church.

Wayman’s plea agreement is the first among the 11 FLDS Church members charged. Other defendants are expected to follow, with the exception of Lyle Jeffs, who fled from custody in the summer. The government said no deal had been offered to Lyle Jeffs, who also served as a bishop in the FLDS Church.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund said the resolution would help deter a “culture of fraud” in the FLDS community, FOX News reported.

“These people are extremely poor. There’s not $12 million in that community to pay restitution,” Lund told reporters outside the courthouse, adding that the government – not individual investors – was the victim. “We’re willing to eat that cost.”

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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9 Comments

  • Proud Rebel December 26, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Well now, doesn’t this make you just warm and fuzzy inside?

    “In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund said the resolution would help deter a “culture of fraud” in the FLDS community, FOX News reported.”
    And just how is this going to deter a “culture of fraud” in the FLDS community? Looks to me like it is sending a clear message, Don’t get caught, but if you DO get caught, we will bail you out. Wonderful.

    “These people are extremely poor. There’s not $12 million in that community to pay restitution,” Lund told reporters outside the courthouse, adding that the government – not individual investors – was the victim. “We’re willing to eat that cost.”

    Hey Mr. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund, for your information, I am not willing to eat that cost! Those are MY taxpayer’s dollars, along with everyone else’s that you are so freely giving away here.

    I’ve got more to say on this, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be published, because I’m not sure I could put my thoughts into acceptably polite phrasing.

  • ladybugavenger December 26, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    This is ridiculous. Since when is being poor get you out of restitution and a judgment against you? Hogwash.

  • .... December 26, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Good thing he didn’t kill anybody because he would of gotten probation

    • Proud Rebel December 27, 2016 at 9:35 am

      And a fund raiser. 🙁

  • utahdiablo December 27, 2016 at 9:11 am

    This isn’t over by a longshot folks, contact your new President by emailing the whitehouse, also contact the new DOJ head Jeff Sessions. This is total BS, those are our 12 Million in Taxpayer dollars, don;t let this go umpunished, we do have a voice and Robert Lund is going down too…

  • mmsandie December 27, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Why do they get away with it…????i guess if you braid your hair , west long dresses your exempt…..those people are poor???? They have lived off taxpayers for years.. Some men are gone but women have babies still , let them go to work and pay the money back, why the assistant attorney general was so easy going.. A pay off some where… Let them join the rest of us, and work, Warren jeffs in prison … We support him, how does he have such control…

    • Real Life December 27, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      It is a joke. And not to mention the little issue of sexual abuse against children. These people are bottom of the barrel, and their actions would not be tolerated anywhere else.

  • JonGrant December 27, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Where’s the 12 million dollars? We the tax payers can expect that back in our pockets when?

  • Adam December 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    White Christian Republicans rape children and commit massive fraud against our country and,m because they are white Christian Republicans, they walk away with zero consequences. Typical.

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