Lyle Jeffs: Fugitive US polygamist sect leader arrested

Tony Mangan, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said the Highway Patrol was asked to respond Wednesday and transported Jeffs to Sioux Falls at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He fled house arrest past year while awaiting trial with other sect leaders for alleged food stamp fraud and money laundering. He was being held without bond on a Federal Marshals Service hold in South Dakota's Minnehaha County, according to booking records.

The FBI received a tip from a citizen Tuesday, which included a partial description of Jeff's vehicle.

"That was Lyle's master plan to avoid capture was telling that my first name's my last name, I guess", Haug said. An off-duty Yankton Police Department detective spotted the vehicle and believed it was Jeffs. After using olive old to slide off his Global Positioning System ankle monitor during home confinement while awaiting trial for his alleged role in a food stamp fraud scheme, he disappeared from Salt Lake City, UT.

Barnhart said Yankton's police chief was at the local marina after being told that Jeffs may be in the area.

Jeffs complied with officers when he was arrested and acknowledged he was the fugitive they had been searching for, said Eric Barnhart, FBI special agent in charge for the Salt Lake City Division. Authorities believe he had been in that area for the past two weeks and was living out of his pickup truck. Once the sect's highest leader, he is now serving a life sentence in Texas for raping girls he considered to be his brides.

Prosecutors allege that Lyle Jeffs and other FLDS leaders in Arizona and South Dakota conspired to defraud the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, and conspired to commit money laundering.

The FLDS is believed to have about up to 10,000 members. The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago. Known to the faithful as "R23", the compound sits along a gravel road, secluded by tall pine trees, a privacy fence and a guard tower.

Lyle Jeffs was some six hours from that compound when he was captured.

"He was living out of his truck", said Barnhart.

There was a $50,000 reward issued for his arrest. "That would be nice". Utah US Attorney John Huber says he won't discuss plea possibilities for Jeffs.

The fraud scheme, according to prosecutors, operated by Jeffs and other leaders instructing sect followers to purchase items with food stamp cards, then, give to an FLDS warehouse.

Huber said Jeffs' flight "will play a significant part in the prosecution".

"Now I hope the media asks tough questions as the US Attorney's office does their job this time", said Brower in a message to us this morning.

"It's a serious offense to flee justice, and we do not take it lightly", Huber said.

  • Leroy Wright