Lyle Jeffs, who reportedly was running the secretive polygamous FLDS church, fled house arrest over the weekend. He is the younger brother of Warren Jeffs, who himself fled police before being convicted of sex crimes.
Lyle Jeffs appears in police booking photos provided by the FBI.
FBI / Via fbi.gov
A top leader of the polygamous FLDS church has gone missing.
Lyle Jeffs, who was under house arrest in Utah, fled from authorities over the weekend. Melodie Rydalch, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah, told BuzzFeed News that authorities learned Jeffs had absconded Sunday, prompting the FBI to issue an arrest warrant.
Jeffs is a bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church that still practices what it calls “plural marriage” — a doctrine that allows a man to marry multiple women. The mainstream Mormon church, officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, disavowed the practice in 1890.
The 56-year-old was arrested in February and had been confined to house arrest while awaiting trial in a massive food stamp case. Federal prosecutors allege that he and 10 other people diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds to FLDS-controlled businesses. The Justice Department described the group's crimes as “especially egregious” and “nothing less than theft.”
He later asked a judge to free him pending trial, but prosecutors countered that he was a flight risk and had married multiple underage girls. The judge ultimately sided with Jeffs and let him go earlier this month.
At the time, Brower — who has worked in and written about the Short Creek area for years — posted that he was “aghast” and predicted that “Lyle will never go back to jail or prison.”
News of Jeffs disappearance first spread on Monday when author and private investigator Sam Brower posted about it on Facebook.
Helaman Barlow, a former police chief in Short Creek, the FLDS-dominated community on the Utah-Arizona border, also said on Facebook he had heard that Jeffs was on the lam.