FBI captures polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs


Federal authorities say polygamist religious leader Lyle Jeffs has been captured, almost a year after he escaped from home confinement while he was accused in a multimillion-dollar food-stamp fraud scheme.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church.

He and 10 other members of his group are accused of converting millions of dollars from the federal assistance program into cash.

Salt Lake City FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart says public information led to the arrest....

The FBI had been looking for him since June 2016 when he escaped from house confinement in Utah after slipping off his Global Positioning System ankle monitor.

Lyle Jeffs was captured in South Dakota around 8:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday night, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a tweet.

Lyle Jeffs' brother, FLDS President Warren Jeffs, is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls aged 12 and 15. It's not clear if FLDS members provided Jeffs support while he was on the run, but Barnhart said the fugitive bishop had limited communication and resources over the a year ago. According to Fox 13, the scheme involved Jeffs and other sect leaders forcing food stamp recipients to hand over all benefits to sect leaders.

Barnhart said the agency is working to determine if the unidentified tipster will get a reward.

Brenda Nicholson, who group up in Short Creek ( the combined towns of Hildale and Colorado City), and was able to escape, told Lake Powell Communications this morning, "I hope they keep him for a very long time".

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After Jeffs' had confirmed his identity, law enforcement took him into custody in Minnehaha County, SD. Prosecutors argued Jeffs was a flight risk.

The FBI received a tip from a citizen Tuesday, which included a partial description of Jeff's vehicle. Barnhart said they do not know yet if he spent time there during his year on the lam.

Jeffs likely will face at least one other felony charge connected to his time on the run, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said.

Jeffs is the brother of the sect's highest leader, the imprisoned Warren Jeffs.

"It's a serious offence to flee justice and we do not take it lightly".

"The money from the alleged scheme, prosecutors say, helped finance the purchase of paper products, a tractor and a truck - all of which are ineligible under SNAP rules".

Nine of the people arrested alongside Lyle Jeffs have since accepted plea deals, and one person had his charges dismissed.

The defendants denied wrongdoing and said they were just sharing food as part of their communal living practices.