FLDS Leader Lyle Jeffs Escapes House Arrest Pending Money Laundering Trial

FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, the brother of the infamous Warren Jeffs, has escaped house arrest. The FLDS leader had been incarcerated while awaiting trial when his lawyer got him released due an expected trial delay. He was released from federal custody on June 9, reports Fox 13 Now. It is believed that FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs absconded sometime over the weekend.

As Fox 13 Now reports, when he was released from federal custody on June 9, a local reporter directly asked Lyle Jeffs if he was a flight risk. The FLDS leader refused to comment or answer the question.

Now that FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs is missing, a federal warrant has been issued for his arrest, per the Utah U.S. Attorney’s office.

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Lyle Jeffs had been carrying out his pre-trial supervised house arrest in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On June 19, it had been reported by Fox 13 Now that Lyle Jeffs had made a request with the federal judge to have the conditions of his pre-trial house arrest modified. According to the local news report, FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs (via his attorney) had asked to be allowed to “do some work from his home confinement,” as well as to have FLDS church services brought up from the FLDS border towns of Hildale and Colorado City.

The FLDS town straddles the Utah/Arizona border, and their isolated location has made them a haven for the bizarre practices of the FLDS church, which include polygamy and forced child marriages.

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“Due to the extensive publicity surrounding this case in the Salt Lake City area, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Mr. Jeffs to obtain employment in the Salt Lake City area.”

According to the local media, FLDS leader Lyle Jeff’s own defense attorney, Kathryn Nester, was unaware that her infamous client had escaped the supervised release she had successfully negotiated for him until a news station contacted her for comment on the development.

FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs’ supervised release from federal prison was fraught with conditions that he felt were objectionable, according to reports. He had been forbidden from returning to his home in Short Creek (the local name for the Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona area) and from being in contact with any of the victims, co-defendants, or witnesses in his federal food stamp fraud/money laundering case.

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Before Lyle Jeffs escaped from his supervised release, his lawyer argued that he needed to be allowed to have a laptop to do consulting work for his son’s business from his current Salt Lake City residence. The lawyer also argued that he needed to be able to receive correspondences from FLDS church members to fulfill his religious duties.

“Mr. Jeffs’ religious practices require him to regularly pray for the members of his community and whatever travails they are experiencing in their daily lives. Mr. Jeffs would agree not to respond to any of the correspondence he receives. Receiving the prayer requests of Mr. Jeffs’ faith community would enable Mr. Jeffs to continue his spiritual duties without any concern of exerting undue influence since he would not respond to the letters. Mr. Jeffs respectfully seeks an order from this Court allowing this limited, one-way communication between him and the members of the FLDS church.”

In requesting more leniency for her now-fugitive client, his defense attorney cited his First Amendment rights.

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FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs’ federal charges were based on the FLDS practice of forcing members of the church to hand over their food stamp benefits to leaders. According to federal prosecutors, the money-laundering scheme (which many allege allowed FLDS leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, to dine on steak and lobster while “lessor” church members fought over bread and cereal) exceeded $12 million dollars in theft from taxpayers. In addition to Lyle Jeffs, 10 other members of the FLDS church are facing federal charges for their part in the alleged food stamp fraud and money laundering.

Lyle Jeffs’ defense attorneys have argued that “FLDS members have a religious right to consecrate their property to their church.”

According to the federal food stamp program, food stamp recipients are required to use their food stamp benefits to buy food that will be prepared and consumed by the designated food stamp recipients.

As part of his conditional, supervised pre-trial release, Lyle Jeffs was also prohibited from making contact with his imprisoned brother Warren Jeffs, the official “prophet” and leader of the FLDS church.

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As Rolling Stone reports, Warren Jeff (who is now serving life plus 20 years for child rape) spent much of 2005 and half of 2006 on the run as he evaded child sex crime charges. He ended up on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list and was ultimately arrested on a Utah highway in August of 2006. In his vehicle were sunglasses and women’s wigs.

The FLDS church is a very secretive and evasive organization, one that does not recognize the law of the land over their religious theology. If the flight of Warren Jeffs is any indication, it might be a while before Lyle Jeffs is back in federal custody.

If you see escaped FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, contact the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office at (801) 579-1400, your local law enforcement, or 911.

[Image via Davis County Jail/CBS 5 News]