ELDORADO, Texas — Authorities were on the Fundamentalist LDS Church’s Yearning for Zion Ranch, seizing the sprawling property as part of a court order following polygamist leader Warren Jeffs’ child sex assault convictions.
In a statement to FOX 13, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it was taking possession of the YFZ Ranch to satisfy a judgment in a seizure case brought by the attorney general’s office.
The Schleicher County Sheriff and Texas DPS officers met with those FLDS members still on the property and handed them copies of the court order allowing for the seizure.
“The residents have agreed to vacate the property,” the statement said. “Law enforcement personnel are working with the occupants of the ranch to take all reasonable actions to assist with their departure of the property, to preserve the property, and to successfully execute the court order.”
“Continuing activities on the property will include obtaining a court-ordered inventory of real property and protecting the remaining assets.”
The ranch has been largely abandoned since FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of child sex assault, related to underage marriages. He is serving a life, plus 20-year sentence for the crimes.
In 2012, the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed court papers to seize the 1,600-acre property, arguing that it was used in the commission of a crime. The FLDS Church did not fight the filing, and a default judgment was entered by a judge in the 51st Judicial District Court.
Local residents told FOX 13 that only a handful of residents remained on the ranch. Most have moved to other FLDS enclaves in South Dakota, Colorado or back to the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz.
In 2008, authorities raided the YFZ Ranch based on a phone call from someone alleging abuse. The call itself was a hoax, but authorities claimed that once on the ranch they found evidence of other crimes. More than 400 children were seized by Texas authorities in the raid, until that state’s Supreme Court ordered them returned.
In all, a dozen FLDS men were convicted and sentenced to prison for crimes related to underage marriages on the ranch.
Photos: Warren Jeffs and Wives