A provocative new court filing is raising questions about the whereabouts of fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs. Jeffs infamously escaped house arrest in June after being released from jail pending his trial for food stamp fraud. Along with 11 other members of the FLDS church, fugitive Lyle Jeffs was charged with federal crimes related to the misuse of food stamps benefits among leaders of the FLDS church.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Lyle Jeffs. Jeffs, who was on pre-trial release, fled sometime over the weekend.— US Attorney Utah (@DUTnews) June 20, 2016
Prior to the release of FLDS fugitive Lyle Jeffs on June 9, prosecutors had warned the judge that they believed the FLDS leader, the brother of notorious FLDS kingpin and former fugitive Warren Jeffs, was a flight risk. When asked whether or not he would flee by a local news outlet, fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs refused to comment.
Now, the fugitive FLDS leader has been on the run for over two months, and prosecutors and defense in the massive food stamp fraud trial are pondering as to whether or not charges against the 11 other FLDS defendants in the case should be pursued now that their fugitive leader is nowhere to be found.
As Fox 13 Now reports, fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs’ defense attorney suggested during the recent court hearing that there might be an otherworldly reason that she’s unable to reach her fugitive client. Indeed, in a written filing, Kathryn Nester, the attorney for the missing FLDS leader, wrote that she wasn’t sure if he had run away, been abducted “against his will,” or perhaps been the sole human being on Earth to “experience the miracle of the rapture.”
“As this Court is well aware, Mr. Jeffs is currently not available to inform his counsel whether or not he agrees to the Continuance. Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel.”
The lawyer for fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs added that because of his mysterious (and possibly godly) disappearance, he is incapable of rendering an opinion or giving approval to his counsel regarding legal filings in the case.
She then told the judge that she had no problem with the food stamp fraud trial date being moved back.
While it appears that the attorney for FLDS fugitive Lyle Jeffs appeared to be joking in her recent legal filing, the charges against the FLDS leader and brother of the Mormon offshoot cult’s imprisoned prophet are no laughing matter. Lyle Jeffs, along with 11 other FLDS members and leaders, are facing some serious federal money laundering and fraud charges.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FLDS fugitive Lyle Jeffs and his ilk ordered members of the FLDS church (who are religiously compelled to take orders from their church leadership) to hand over their food stamp benefits to what is known in the FLDS (and mainstream Mormon) communities as the “Bishop’s Storehouse.” The Bishop’s Storehouse is a communal food storage location that is managed and distributed by the FLDS and/or the mainstream Mormon church.
Recipients of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamp) benefits in the U.S. are required by law to use their benefits to purchase food for the use of the individuals and families that are approved for food stamps.
In the case of fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs and the rest of his co-defendants, the federal government says that food stamp benefits were diverted and misused. According to the feds, fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs used at least a portion of the allegedly ill-gotten food stamp benefits to purchase a luxury car.
All in all, fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs and his alleged cohorts are accused of bilking the federal government and U.S. taxpayers of more than $12 million dollars, largely by swiping their EBT cards at FLDS-owned businesses without making food purchases.
According to legal counsel for fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, the members of the FLDS church have a legal right to break federal food stamp laws if their religious organization dictates that they do so.
“FLDS members have a religious right to consecrate their property to their church.”
While his attorney has suggested an otherworldly means of absconding from his federally-mandated house arrest, law enforcement believes that Jeffs slipped out of his ankle monitoring bracelet using olive oil or something similar.
In a wanted poster, the FBI calls Lyle Jeffs “armed and dangerous.” Apparently, unlike Jeffs’ lawyer, the feds don’t believe that he was “skirted away against his will” or that he alone “he experienced the miracle of rapture.”
Following the disappearance of Lyle Jeffs, other members of the FLDS church in jail pending trial have been denied pretrial release. It has been reported that some of the members may have received orders from imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs to violate their parole terms.
If you see fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, contact the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office at (801) 579-1400, your local law enforcement, or 911. If you’re outside the U.S., you are advised to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]