Polygamist Cult Leader Arrested After Year Running From FBI

FBI Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs captured

Lyle Jeffs, a leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), went on the run after the Federal Bureau of Investigation charged him and 10 other members of his sect previous year with food stamp fraud of at least $12 million and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Officials have always viewed Lyle Jeffs as the lead defendant in the food stamp fraud case, Huber said Thursday, noting that the prosecution's approach with Jeffs "will in no way resemble the way we have handled and processed the other defendants in this case".

"The bureau announced its capture in a Thursday morning tweet: "#ARRESTED: "FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs in custody after almost a year on the lam".

Jeffs, who is accused of heading an intricate food stamp fraud scheme, apparently was living out of his pickup truck near the southeastern South Dakota town on the Missouri River when authorities arrested him.

A former member of Jeffs' sect, Ross Chatwin, reacted to the news of Lyle's arrest to our sister station in Salt Lake City, KSL.

"That was Lyle's master plan to avoid capture was telling that my first name's my last name, I guess", Haug said.

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"That was his shot at fooling everybody", Haug said. An off-duty Yankton police detective spotted the vehicle and believed it was Jeffs.

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.

Barnhart declined comment on whether Haug was the tipster credited with helping authorities capture Jeffs, but Yankton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Rothschadl said authorities looked for Jeffs in the area because of the pawn shop tip.

Following the charges, Jeffs escaped house arrest near Salt Lake City this time a year ago.

Barnhart had high praise for the department's help with catching Jeffs.

Jeffs assumed the role of leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known as FLDS) after his brother, Warren Jeffs, was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison for child rape.

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Jeffs however, still has eight "spiritual wives", as the sect believes polygamy brings men exaltation in heaven.

The FLDS is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

The FLDS has a compound in Pringle, South Dakota. Known to the faithful as "R23", the compound sits along a gravel road, secluded by tall pine trees, a privacy fence and a guard tower.

Lyle Jeffs was supposed to be in court on charges that he defrauded the government out of millions of dollars, but he managed to get rid of his ankle monitor and hadn't been seen since. The disbursement of the reward money has not yet been determined, Barnhart said. We do not give up. "That would be nice".

"He spent that whole time, I'm sure, looking over his shoulder, wondering about every police officer he saw, every highway patrolman, what person would eventually give him up", Barnhart told reporters. Most of those charged in the case accepted plea deals, an option unlikely to be offered to Jeffs, said John Huber, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah.

In a federal court appearance Thursday in Sioux Falls, Jeffs waived a detention hearing until he returns to Utah in coming days to face the pending food stamp fraud charges, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah.

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