The FBI is still looking for the fugitive leader of a polygamist sect who escaped house arrest in June, and are now offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
Lyle Steed Jeffs, along with 10 other members of the Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), was charged with defrauding the government of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also called food stamps, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering in February.
Jeffs should be considered armed and dangerous, the FBI warns.
The men were released June 9 to await their trial, scheduled for October. Jeffs escaped 10 days later, around June 18 or 19, possibly by coating his feet with olive oil and slipping out of his ankle monitor.
During a pre-trial court proceedings, Jeffs’ public defender said she had no idea where her client went, and had no way of contacting him.
She even noted that for all she knew, he could have been raptured.
“Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel,” Kathryn Nester, Jeffs’ defense attorney, wrote in court documents reported by Salt Lake City, Utah’s Fox affiliate. (RELATED: Polygamist Fugitive’s Attorney Says He Was Probably Raptured)
Three other men were recaptured recently after they were caught allegedly meeting together in violation of the conditions of their release. (RELATED: Three Mormon Polygamists Back In Prison For Food Stamp Fraud)
A federal indictment against Jeffs and the 10 other FLDS members claims the group funneled food stamps from church members to pay for things like John Deere tractor payments and Ford trucks. The church leaders asked congregants to donate their food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, to the church for redistribution as part of their religious duty, prosecutors allege.(RELATED: Alleged Polygamist Fraudsters Argue For Religious Right To Donate Food Stamps)
Lyle Jeffs brother, Warren Jeffs, is considered the prophet of the FLDS church, and is currently serving a 20-year sentence for raping young girls who were given to him as bribes, Salt Lake Tribune reports.
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