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Judge releases FLDS leader from jail

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Posted at 3:22 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-01 17:22:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has ordered a leader in the Fundamentalist LDS Church charged in a massive food stamp fraud scheme to be released from jail pending trial.

Seth Jeffs was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Monday for a detention hearing, but in a surprise order Friday, Judge Ted Stewart had the FLDS bishop released. Jeffs is the brother of imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and a bishop over the polygamous sect’s South Dakota branch.

In an order setting the conditions of his release, Judge Stewart told Jeffs to surrender his passport and told him to live in St. George — at least for the next 30 days (he is allowed to travel to South Dakota with permission from pre-trial services). He forbade Jeffs from traveling to Colorado City, Ariz., or from having any contact with Warren Jeffs or FLDS bishop Ben Johnson.

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Jeffs must also wear a GPS monitoring device, the order stated.

Federal prosecutors had been trying to keep Jeffs in jail, arguing he was a flight risk. They pointed to Warren Jeffs’ time on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list and a network of safe houses and followers who were willing to keep him on the run.

The judge has recently ordered other FLDS members and leaders released pending trial. FLDS bishop Lyle Jeffs (a brother of Seth and Warren) is scheduled to have a detention hearing on Wednesday.

In total, 11 people are charged with food stamp fraud and money laundering. They are accused of misusing FLDS members’ food stamp cards. Federal prosecutors have alleged taxpayers were bilked out of more than $12 million.