Pawn shop workers help nab polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs

This frame grab from KSFY Television video shows polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs arriving at the Federal Courthouse Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Sioux Falls, S.D. Jeffs has been captured in South Dakota while apparently living out of his pickup truck after nearly a year on the run. Authorities had been hunting for Jeffs since he escaped home confinement in Utah on June 18, 2016, ahead of his trial in an alleged multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. | KSFY Television via AP, St. George News

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs’ one-year run from justice was ended by pliers, sharp-eyed pawn shop workers and an astute off-duty detective in a small town in South Dakota.

The events leading to Jeffs’ capture Wednesday in a lakeside area near the South Dakota-Nebraska state line where he was living out of his truck started a day earlier when a pawn shop owner called police about a man who had come to his shop twice acting nervous and fidgety.

After Jeffs sold two pairs of Leatherman pliers for $37 and provided his ID on Tuesday, a suspicious employee at River City Treasures and Pawn in Yankton looked up online the name he was given and realized the man was wanted by the FBI, owner Kevin Haug said in an interview Thursday.

Haug said Jeffs re-arranged his name during the transaction, going by Jeffs Lyle Steed.

“That was his shot at fooling everybody,” Haug said.

Haug alerted police and his employee called the FBI — providing authorities with store video of Jeffs, pawn paperwork bearing his information and the vehicle Jeffs was driving: A silver Ford-F-150 pickup truck.

Every once in a while, when someone’s weird, we look into them for no apparent reason other than we’re just bored sometimes,” Haug said.

The tip proved to be the break the FBI had been craving since Jeffs used olive oil to slip out of his ankle monitor and  escape home confinement in Utah on June 18, 2016, ahead of his trial in an alleged multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme.

Authorities ramped up their search for Jeffs based on the tip, and an off-duty Yankton police detective spotted Jeffs going into a bathroom at a marina-resort area next to picturesque Lewis and Clark Lake and then as Jeffs drove through the marina, Yankton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Rothschadl said.

Jeffs complied with officers when he was arrested and acknowledged he was the fugitive they had been searching for, said Eric Barnhart, FBI special agent in charge for the Salt Lake City Division.

Authorities believe he had been in the area for about two weeks, running low on resources and struggling without the help of fellow sect members, Barnhart said. A falling out with his brother Warren Jeffs, who runs the sect while serving a life prison sentence in Texas for sexual assault of underage brides, led to the lack of support, the FBI has said.

Their group, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is based in a small community on the Utah-Arizona border. Members of the sect believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

The group also has a small compound in far west South Dakota that was established more than a decade ago. Known to the faithful as “R23,” the compound sits along a gravel road, secluded by tall pine trees, a privacy fence and a guard tower.

Lyle Jeffs was some six hours from that compound when he was captured. Barnhart said they do not know yet if he spent time there during his year on the lam. He said the FBI is working to determine if the unidentified tipster will get paid the $50,000 reward. Haug said if he gets a reward, he would take a vacation.

“That’s not why I did it, but if they’re going to offer it we kind of gave them the tip that he was here,” Haug said. “That would be nice.”

Jeffs will likely face at least one new felony charge connected to his time on the run, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said.

In a federal court appearance Thursday in Sioux Falls, Jeffs waived a detention hearing until he returns to Utah in coming days to face the pending food stamp fraud charges, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah.

Jeffs was the last of the defendants in the food stamp fraud case still behind bars when U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart last year in June reversed an earlier decision and granted his release. Prosecutors argued Jeffs was a flight risk.

“You have those times when you don’t want to say, ‘I told you so,’ but that’s kind of where we’re at,” Huber said Thursday. “We had very serious concerns.”

By JAMES NORD and BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press. McCombs reported from Salt Lake City.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • knobe June 16, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    I’ve not seen any news on how his brother is faring .
    I wonder if the rickety old perv now thinks that forcing teen girls
    into breeding with him was worth the prison time .

  • Sedona June 16, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    A real leader to look up to, right?

    • Utahguns June 17, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      There’s a graveyard in Hilldale for babies.
      The lot is unmarked and unremarkable. There is no sign. A scrappy white wooden fence runs the length of it along Canyon Street. The baby cemetery is a mess of overgrown weeds and dry, cracked dirt, home to hundreds of infant and toddler-size graves, not all of them marked.
      Many of the children interred here lived not longer than a day, some just two days, two weeks, or two years. The last infant grave marked in this cemetery is dated 2010; Warren issued an edict from prison banning sex in 2011, so few infants have been born since then (the few babies born each year are the product of institutionalized rape by cult-appointed seed bearers).

      The quick answer for why this polygamous community has buried so many of its children is inbreeding.
      There is a condition called fumarase deficiency (FD), otherwise known as Polygamist Down’s. Fumarase deficiency (FD) is an autosomal metabolic recessive disorder, meaning it is necessary for an individual with the condition to receive the mutant gene from both parents. Those affected by the genetic disorder suffer grand mal seizures and often have facial feature deformities and severe mental retardation, with IQs as low as 25.

      Warren Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs and any so-called “leader” of this cult are selectively destroying the human race, creating individuals with physical and mental deficiencies, people who are not able to thrive.

      So, is there a law against this selective inbreeding that produces a low level homo sapien?
      Hitler was charged with war crimes against humanity.
      I see no difference between him and the Jeffs.

      • comments June 18, 2017 at 1:26 pm

        It’s a twisted thing they got goin up there. They think they can have their cake and eat it too. They think they can get away with have relations with first cousins or even worse than that–closer relatives than cousins. If their welfare was chopped they’d be out of business fairly quickly as they’d have no way to feed themselves and they’d be forced to stop having all these incest babies. I hope it’s not as bad as it’s been in the past, at least.

  • gandalf June 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    “Jeffs Lyle Steed”. What an idiot. If you are hiding from the FBI, you would think you would want to think through your name change a bit.

  • youcandoit June 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Oh my I’m from Yankton, SD. We are a great community nice people. Beautiful city along the Missouri river.

  • Real Life June 17, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    And to think, him and bis brother are “the voice of God” to the idiots living in Short Creek.

    • comments June 17, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Yup, you can blame it partly on the brainwashing skills of the cult, but I think a lot of them are just plain idiots.

      • comments June 17, 2017 at 5:24 pm

        And then there’s the parents that turn over their kids to the lecherous old men of the cult to abuse(the prophets). What the hell kind of parents are these, if not complete idiots? Joseph Smith would have been proud, I’m sure.

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