Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs was arrested Wednesday in South Dakota after nearly a year on the run.
FBI officials announced the capture Thursday morning with a tweet: “#ARRESTED: FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs in custody after nearly a year on the lam.” Authorities followed a tip that led them to Jeffs, who was living out of his silver pickup truck according to Fox News.
Police caught up with his vehicle at a recreation-area marina after Jeffs stopped to use the bathroom. He surrendered without incident while at a traffic stop.
The group, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is based in a small community on the Utah-Arizona border. It also has a small compound in far west South Dakota.
Jeffs and 10 others from the sect were charged with fraud and money laundering in a multimillion dollar food stamp fraud scheme. Lyle Jeffs will likely face at least one other felony charge connected to his time on the run, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said.
Jeffs was the last of the defendants in the food stamp fraud case still behind bars when U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart reversed his earlier decision and granted Jeffs his release on June 9. Prosecutors opposed that move, arguing Jeffs was a flight risk. They were right.
Authorities had been searching for Jeffs since he escaped from home confinement in Utah in June 2016 while pending trial on food stamp fraud charges.
Officials said he slipped out of his GPS ankle monitor and fled from a Salt Lake City house where he was on supervised home release.
It’s unclear why Jeffs was in Sotuh Dakota at the time of his arrest, but he may have been trying to go to the compound that is owned by FLDS.
Prosecutors accused Jeffs and other sect leaders of instructing followers to buy items with their food stamp cards and give them to a church warehouse where leaders decided how to distribute products to followers. They say food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.
The defendants said they were just sharing food as part of their communal living practices.
Polygamy: is the practice of marrying multiple spouses. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, it is called polygyny. When a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and wives, it can be called a group marriage.
The vast majority of polygamous marriages are polygynous. Polygyny is legally accepted in many Muslim majority countries and some countries with a sizeable Muslim minority; it is also accepted in some secular countries in varying degrees.
In accordance with a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage—the marriage of one man to two or more women—was instituted among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1840s Despite Smith’s revelation, the 1835 edition of the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, written after the doctrine of plural marriage began to be practiced, publicly condemned polygamy.
In 1890, LDS Church president Wilford Woodruff issued a public declaration announcing that the LDS Church had discontinued new plural marriages.
The Smoot Hearings in 1904, which documented that the LDS Church was still practicing polygamy spurred the LDS Church to issue a Second Manifesto, again claiming that it had ceased performing new plural marriages. By 1910 the LDS Church excommunicated those who entered into, or performed, new plural marriages. Even so, many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s.