'FBI raids FLDS businesses' / KSTU-TVNote: I have a little good news to report on this; please see below.

I’ve blogged occasionally about the antics of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka FLDS. They’re a sect of Mormonism that broke away from the main LDS church when it banned polygamy. Since this split took place, the FLDS church has become even stranger than the predominant LDS church (which is already pretty strange, if you know anything about Mormonism). They’re also reclusive, living in communities they come to dominate, which is necessary since their polygamy is illegal and they need some way to fend off Johnny Law if they want to practice their religion. The current chief FLDS prophet, Warren Jeffs, is currently in prison, convicted of statute rape of underage girls who were part of his harem back in 2011.

Since then, the FLDS has effectively been run by Warren’s brother Lyle, but it seems he also has trouble operating within the bounds of the law. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Lyle and a number of other FLDS leaders have been indicted for a food-stamp con (WebCite cached article):

In a case that some say could destroy Utah’s largest polygamous sect, federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced indictments against leaders and members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on charges related to food stamp fraud.

Lyle Jeffs, who has been running the FLDS for his imprisoned brother, is one of nearly a dozen people named in an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday while FBI agents and sheriffs deputies searched businesses in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., that are owned by members of the FLDS.

Also indicted was Seth Jeffs, full brother to both Lyle and FLDS President Warren Jeffs, the religion’s prophet, who is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.…

Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, are home to the FLDS church. Isaac Wyler, a former member of the church, said Tuesday’s action appears to be the largest law enforcement raid in the towns since 1953, when Arizona authorities arrived to arrest polygamists.

“There are officers all over town,” Wyler said.

Lyle Jeffs and 10 other FLDS church leaders and members were indicted Tuesday in Utah and South Dakota, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The article explains various ways this scheme worked; among them:

The prosecutors’ indictment says the alleged fraud is rooted in the FLDS church’s “United Order,” instituted in 2011, which instructs all adherents to donate their lives and all their material substance to their church.

Members were told to divert their food stamp benefits to the church by purchasing food from church-owned businesses like the Meadowayne Dairy Store and Vermillion Cliffs Produce and then bring those items to the FLDS Storehouse for “donation,” according to the indictment.

“These leaders also provided instruction on how to avoid suspicion and detection by the government,” the indictment alleges.

FLDS leaders also told members to transfer their SNAP benefits to the church-owned stores without receiving any food products, according to the indictment.

On one occasion, [indicted John Clifton] Wayman [the former bishop of Short Creek] is accused of taking an Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card — which operates similar to a debit card and is linked to a SNAP account — from a qualifying person and giving it to an unauthorized person to buy food and goods.

There’s more there, but this is enough to give one a taste of the machinations the FLDS engaged in for years. Overall, this racket accumulated multiple millions of dollars in fraudulent SNAP benefits. According to another article by KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City, which provides details from court filings (cached), this amount was over $12 million. It also includes details of Lyle’s and Seth’s operations, which naturally included crimes on the side such as “Failed to report incidents of underage sex abuse.” Sigh. I guess Warren’s conviction never taught them anything.

A lot of articles I’ve read on this case assert that, with these indictments and arrests, the FLDS church is finished. That, however, would be wishful thinking. Various states had gone after Warren Jeffs and others in the FLDS for a decade before he was finally jailed for his pedophilia*, unsuccessfully until the state of Texas finally got a case they could prosecute. The FLDS has been up to no good for a very long time, and has managed to continue being up to no good for an even longer time. I truly doubt this will finish them.

* As I’ve blogged so many times before: Yes, it’s really not just a Catholic problem.

Update: Lyle Jeffs has finally been captured (cached). His idiotic attempt at passing himself off as someone else — namely, as “Jeffs Lyle Steed” instead of “Lyle Steed Jeffs” — failed miserably. What a fucking perverted moron! Someone that catastrophically stupid could only have been on the run as long as he was, with the help of others. Hopefully they, too, will be prosecuted … but I’m not betting it will happen. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: KSTU-TV.

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