Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Pawn shop workers help nab polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints polygamous sect leader Lyle Steed Jeffs is in police custody after almost a year on the lam, the FBI Field Office in Salt Lake City announced Thursday.

Details of Lyle Jeffs' arrest were not available but the sheriff's office in Minnehaha County, South Dakota, lists him as being held in the county jail without bond.

As The Washington Post reported previous year, Lyle Jeffs and other church leaders were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Lyle Jeffs was booked into the Minnehaha County Jail at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday night, the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicated. The FBI is expected to hold a news conference in Salt Lake City on Jeffs' arrest Thursday afternoon. If the name Jeffs seems familiar, it may be because he is the brother of Warren Jeffs, the polygamous sect's prophet, who is imprisoned in Texas and serving a life sentence for raping girls he claimed to be his brides.

Meanwhile, Jeffs' co-defendants resolved their cases by pleading guilty to felony or misdemeanor charges.

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Jeffs complied with officers when he was arrested near the small town of Yankton in the southeastern corner of South Dakota, Barnhart said. He said Jeffs was alone in the vehicle. Days later, Lyle Jeffs disappeared after investigators say he used olive oil to slip a Global Positioning System ankle monitor off his foot without triggering an alarm. An off-duty Yankton Police Department detective spotted the vehicle and believed it was Jeffs.

Haug said the man left but came back two days ago to sell tools.

Jeffs has been missing for a year after fleeing federal custody in Utah.

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

He fled Salt Lake City, Utah while on home confinement, awaiting trial on an alleged multi-million dollar food stamp fraud scheme.

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The FBI had issued a $50,000 reward for information leading to Jeffs' arrest and Barnhart said the agency is working to determine if the unidentified tipster will get paid.

Many authorities, and those on the inside of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), felt he would never be seen again.

Apart from evading police, he's accused of involvement in a scheme to convert food stamps into cash for the church. Charges against one man were dismissed. He's being held without bail on a United States marshall hold. The funds garnered were, then, diverted to "front" companies for purchasing thousands of dollars in items such as a tractor and a truck.

The defendants denied wrongdoing and said they were sharing food as part of their communal living practices.

While Jeffs was a fugitive, nine of the 10 other people charged in the high-profile February 2016 bust accepted plea deals.

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