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.
According to an Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman, polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs has been found after escaping house arrest last summer, the Associated Press reports.
Jeffs fled from his Salt Lake City home – where he was under house arrest – on June 19 of previous year while awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case. Authorities believe he had been in that area for the last two weeks.
A day earlier, a pawn shop owner nearby called police about a man who had come to his shop twice acting nervous.
The FBI had issued a $50,000 reward for information leading to Jeffs’ arrest and Barnhart said the agency is working to determine if the unidentified tipster will get paid.
His brother, Warren, 60, was displayed on a similar poster and captured nearly a decade earlier. Warren Jeffs is now serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child rape; he had 78 wives when he was arrested in 2006, and a third of them were under the age of 17.
Lyle Steed Jeffs sold the Leatherman multitools for $37 at River City Treasures and Pawn in Yankton, South Dakota, on Tuesday using his last name as his first name, said owner Kevin Haug. He was utterly dismayed that the US Attorneys in Utah treated the case with kid gloves, and was upset the defendants never served a day in jail, didn’t pay a fine and only had to attend a class on the proper use of food stamps.
“When you flee a federal indictment, the long arm of the law will eventually catch up to you and bring you back to justice”, Huber said.
“That’s not why I did it, but if they’re going to offer it we kind of gave them the tip that he was here”, Haug said.
The FLDS is believed to have about up to 10,000 members. The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.
The FLDS has a small compound in South Dakota, known to the faithful as “R23”. Barnhart said it was unclear if Jeffs spent any time there.
Lyle Jeffs and 10 others were indicated for food stamp fraud and money laundering in a scheme that cost taxpayers more than $12 million.
Families that qualified for federal assistance were allegedly told to turn over their food stamp debit cards and take what they needed from a warehouse of pooled resources called “the bishop’s storehouse”.
“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”.
Huber said Jeffs’ flight “will play a significant part in the prosecution”. “We had very serious concerns”.
Huber said authorities always considered Jeffs the lead defendant in the case and said he will be treated differently.