ST. GEORGE — Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs entered a not guilty plea in federal court Monday on charges related to food stamp fraud and failure to appear in court.
After nearly a year on the run from authorities, Jeffs made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells in Salt Lake City.
Judge Wells scheduled a two-week trial to begin Sept. 18 for the matter to be heard in federal court. Wells ordered Jeffs jailed pending trial.
Jeffs went on the run in June 2016 after a judge allowed him to be released on home confinement pending trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme within the FLDS church.
Jeffs was captured last month in South Dakota after he pawned two pairs of pliers. A pawn shop employee recognized Jeffs and called police.
Authorities said Jeffs was alone and had been living out of his pickup truck at the time of his arrest.
Jeffs faces up to 30 years in prison for his role in allegedly instructing FLDS followers to buy items with benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and then give them to a church warehouse where leaders decided how to distribute products to followers.
Ten co-defendants resolved their cases by pleading guilty to felony or misdemeanor charges. All avoided jail time or paying restitution.
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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