FLDS leader to remain in jail pending fraud trial

Posted at 1:32 PM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 21:26:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge has ordered the bishop of the Fundamentalist LDS Church to remain in jail pending trial.

After a hearing in federal court on Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead ruled that Lyle Jeffs should be detained.

"Defendant Lyle Jeffs' role is corroborated by multiple sources," the judge said. "The evidence is strong against the defendant."

Jeffs and 10 others are charged in a federal indictment with food stamp fraud and money laundering. They are accused of ordering members of the Utah-based polygamous church to hand over their SNAP cards to the FLDS Church's "United Order" to do with as they wish. Federal prosecutors allege taxpayers were bilked out of more than $12 million.

In seeking to keep Lyle Jeffs behind bars, prosecutors dumped hundreds of pages of documents, including dictations by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs on staying on the run. Warren Jeffs, who was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, was prominently mentioned in Monday's hearing. (He is currently serving a life-sentence in Texas for child sex assault related to underage "marriages.")

Lyle Jeffs - Davis County Jail

Lyle Jeffs - Davis County Jail

Defense attorneys brought in three FLDS Church members to testify, all who testified that Lyle Jeffs "loved his community." They insisted they had never seen safe houses, weapons or large stockpiles of cash, as the government alleged.

The defense tried to persuade the judge to allow Jeffs to be released to a condo in Hurricane, where he would have to wear a GPS ankle monitor (other defendants in the case have similar restrictions). Judge Pead noted that it was unusual for an accused white-collar criminal with no history of wrongdoing to be detained, but pointed to Jeffs' charges, his position in the community and his level of control over members' lives as to why he should remain incarcerated.

In court were followers of the FLDS Church. They left the courthouse, refusing to comment to reporters. Ex-members of the polygamous church were pleased with the decision.

"Everybody wants to say this is a religion," Wallace Jeffs, an Ex-FLDS Church member and half-brother of Lyle Jeffs, told FOX 13. "It's not a religion this is a criminal organization."

Jeffs' attorney, Kathy Nester, told FOX 13 she did not know yet whether there would be an appeal.