FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs flees custody, federal warrant issued for his arrest

Lyle Jeffs with seven of nine wives around 2005. (Photo courtesy Sam Brower and The Salt Lake Tribune)

(KUTV) Lyle Jeffs, a leader of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has fled custody less than two weeks after a judge allowed him to await federal trial from a Salt Lake County area home, sources say.

The U.S. Attorney in Utah has issued a warrant for the arrest of Jeffs, 56, who absconded home confinement sometime over the weekend.

Sam Brower, a private investigator who has dedicated much of his career to investigating illegal activity in the polygamous communities of Hildale and Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona border, told 2News that sources in law enforcement are looking for Jeffs and have asked for the public's help in finding him.

"He's a fugitive," Brower said.

The FBI is leading up the investigation and, with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement, will "vigorously pursue all leads for Jeffs' apprehension," according to a press release issued by the agency's Salt Lake field office on Monday.

His son, Thomas Jeffs, left the FLDS faith several years ago and is concerned his father's family will be expected to help while he runs from authorities. If they don't offer aid and support, Thomas Jeffs said, there could be consequences from within the community.

Jeffs, who is awaiting trial on conspiracy charges that include a multi-million dollar food stamp scheme and money laundering, was granted release from jail on June 9.

Conditions of Jeffs' release included home confinement, electric monitoring and no contact with witnesses, according to the court order.

The order allowed for Jeffs, who was to stay at a home somewhere in Salt Lake County, to leave the residence for doctors appointments, religious services and a job.

Jeffs, who has been leading polygamist communities in Hildale and Colorado City, is one of 11 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints facing charges of conspiracy to commit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney in the District of Utah.

The indictment, unsealed Feb. 23, 2016, alleges that FLDS church leaders used SNAP proceeds from authorized beneficiaries for "unapproved purposes."

A large percentage of those living in Short Creek -- the area on the Utah and Arizona boarder made up of mostly FLDS members -- receive SNAP benefits amounting to millions of dollars each year, according to the Department of Justice.

Anyone with information about Jeffs' whereasbout is asked to call the FBI's Salt Lake field office at 801-579-1400.

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