Polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison
UPDATE: December 13, 2017, 9:45 a.m. - Polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs was sentenced to 57 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart. He also ordered Jeffs to serve three years probation.
(KUTV) — Lyle Jeffs, 57, a high-ranking polygamous sect leader, is being sentenced today in federal court in a food-stamp fraud and escape case.
Jeffs pleaded guilty to two felony counts in an agreement that also called for him to pay $1 million in restitution. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart is expected to sentence Jeffs. He is the same judge who reversed an earlier ruling and released Jeffs from jail to home confinement in 2016 while he was awaiting trial in the food-stamp fraud case.
Days later, Jeffs slipped off his ankle monitor using olive oil and escaped, according to the Associated Press. He was on the run for nearly a year. Jeffs was caught after South Dakota pawn shop workers recognized him as he sold two pairs of pliers. He was apparently living out of his pickup truck.
Jeffs was identified as the ringleader among 11 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints charged with helping funnel millions in food-stamp benefits to a communal storehouse and front companies. The funds were used to pay for a tractor, truck and other items, the AP reported.
The other defendants have agreed to plea deals or seen the charges dismissed. Critics of the secretive sect have been frustrated that none of the others have served prison time, though prosecutors pointed to liabilities like a ruling allowing defense attorneys to argue that members were simply living out religious beliefs in sharing everything they had with the group.