FLDS leader Seth Jeffs pleads guilty, released from jail in fraud case

    FLDS leader Seth Jeffs pleads guilty, released from jail in fraud case (Photo: KUTV)

    (KUTV) Seth Jeffs, one of 11 FLDS church leaders, was arrested for food stamp fraud back in February and has pleaded guilty.

    He was sentenced to six months’ credit for time served in a felony that carried up to 20 years in jail.

    Jeffs is the second of the 11 to plead guilty in the food stamp fraud case.

    This negotiation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Jeffs' Defense Attorney came 10 months after the FBI raided the polygamist cities of Hildale and Colorado City.

    The FLDS church is officially known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Following the sentencing hearing at the Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Jeffs' attorney, Jay Winward, had mixed emotions following the hearing.

    "It's a case that's going to bother me the rest of my career and one I’ll think about till the day I die," Winward said. “I’m pleased that Seth is out of jail today, absolutely."

    Winward said he is not comfortable with the inception of this case or how long it took.

    “I’m not comfortable with the way the investigation occurred,” Winward said.

    Robert Lund, the U.S. attorney working the case, is relieved to have found a resolution.

    "We think that justice has been served. We were able to hold people accountable for the criminal activity they engaged in,” Lund said.

    In a multi-million-dollar fraud case, prosecutors were asked if this punishment may just be a slap on the wrist compared to the maximum sentencing of 20 years behind bars.

    "Most of that money went to buy food for hungry people, which is the purpose of the snap funds in the first place ... We see that as an extremely mitigating circumstance. Once more is that the people in that community, including the defendants, are among some of the poorest people in Utah," Lund said. "They have no ability to pay restitution, so what good does it do to have that order on a piece of paper when it could never be effectuated?”

    There are nine more defendants in this case, including Lyle Jeffs, who fled the state. Lund said they’re currently discussing dispositions with the other defendants and hope this changes things for the cities involved.

    “We hope that it has the desired deterrent affect that people who were not getting the food that they needed will be able to get that now,” he said.

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