Polygamous Sect Leader Is Arrested in South Dakota

And his brother's 65th wife — out of 79 total — wants to turn home of FLDS 'prophet' into a museum

by Barbara Goldberg | Updated 16 Jun 2017 at 11:23 AM

Authorities have arrested Lyle Jeffs, a fugitive leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sect, who had been on the run for almost a year after fleeing house arrest, officials said.

Jeffs, 57, was captured in South Dakota on Wednesday night, June 14, and was being held without bond, according to the FBI and the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office.

He had been on the run since he fled house arrest on June 18, 2016, in Salt Lake City, awaiting trial with other leaders of the religious sect on charges they diverted money from a federal government food-assistance program for the poor, authorities said.

"#ARRESTED: FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs in custody after nearly a year on the lam. He was arrested in South Dakota around 8:30 last night," the FBI's Salt Lake City office said on Twitter.

Lyle Jeffs is a brother of Warren Jeffs, who is considered the prophet of the religious sect and is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for illegally marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.

FLDS is based in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The sect is an offshoot of the mainstream Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormon Church, which renounced polygamy in 1890 and is not affiliated with the FLDS.

Prosecutors allege that 11 FLDS leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, conspired to defraud the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, and conspired to commit money laundering.

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Lyle Jeffs pleaded not guilty to the two-count indictment in February 2016 and was released from jail on June 9, 2016, ahead of his October trial.

He fled house arrest a year ago by using olive oil to slip a GPS tracking bracelet off his ankle, according to the FBI. Cutting the band off would have triggered an alarm, the FBI said.

Related: Truly Religious Politicians May Be a Dying Breed

Warren Jeff's former mansion in Utah is being bought by the 65th of his 79 wives, Brielle Decker, who has said she hopes to make it a tourist attraction and home for people who have left the church.

This article originally appeared in Religion News Service and in Reuters. 

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