Polygamous Mormon Sect Attempts to Delay Food Stamp Fraud Trial

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, onlookers watch as crews clear mud and debris from a road following a flash flood, in Colorado City, Ariz. The number of babies born in the polygamous town on the Utah-Arizona border declined from 2009 to 2013 — a time period …
AP/Rick Bowmer

Prosecutors charged 11 members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect with food stamp fraud and money laundering.

The 11 prosecuted, including polygamous sect leaders Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs, and John Wayman, are accused of forcing church members to give their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to leaders to spend on items for themselves, FOX 13 reported.

Some of the items purchased using these benefits include a luxury car, a John Deere tractor, and many other items.

Prosecutors say that Lyle Jeffs and others created an elaborate scheme where church members who received food stamps would give them to those not eligible to receive them or used them at stores without getting groceries in return, VICE News reported back in February.

Federal prosecutors report the total of the scheme to be about $12 million, with top purchases including $17,000 on paper products, $13,500 on a John Deere tractor-trailer, and $30,000 on a Ford F-150 truck, according to VICE News.

Prosecutors say Lyle Jeffs was taking orders from his imprisoned brother Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence for child sexual assault in relation to underage marriages.

The case has just made it to trial, where a member of the Fundamentalist LDS church is asking to delay the trial until at least May 2017, FOX 13 reported.

The trial was originally set for October 3, but defense attorneys for the FLDS church argued that the amount of evidence produced in discovery would make it very difficult to have a fair trial.

Adding to the complications of the trial, Lyle Jeffs was able to escape from house arrest in June and has yet to be tracked down.

If convicted, the leaders face up to five years in prison for conspiracy and 20 years for money-laundering.


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