Utah to Investigate Polygamous Sect Members for Food Stamp Fraud, None Will Get Jail Time

FILE - In this April 6, 2016, file photo, members of the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leave the Federal Courthouse following a detention status hearing for high-ranking polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs in Salt Lake City. Seven additional members of the Utah polygamous group are expected …
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

The state of Utah will be investigating polygamous Mormon sect members for allegedly misusing food stamps after an FBI raid in 2016 uncovered food stamp fraud within the sect.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Utah Department of Workforce Services would be conducting the investigation but would not be looking to prosecute members of the sect with a crime.

Dale Ownby, director of the eligibility services division at Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, says that the purpose of the investigation is to determine whether residents of the Hildale-based sect will need to pay back their benefits or be suspended from receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program.

“If we can determine that there was indeed trafficking, then the next step would be whether we can establish a dollar amount that was missed,” Ownby said Friday.

Federal prosecutors charged 11 members of the fundamentalist LDS sect in February 2016 with food stamp fraud and money laundering after the FBI conducted a raid that unveiled an $11 million food stamp fraud scheme.

A judge sentenced former polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs, who is the leader officials believed to be behind the food stamp fraud, to nearly five years in prison for conducting the scheme and going on the lam while awaiting trial.

Prosecutors accused Jeffs of running the multi-million-dollar scheme that involved transferring benefits to a communal warehouse and several front companies.


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