Federal food stamp fraud charges could topple Warren Jeffs polygamous Utah sect
Warren Jeffs, the leader of the polygamist sect on the Utah-Arizona border, is currently serving a life sentence for child rape. The self-described “prophet” is associated with a slew of accusations, from exerting tyrannical control over his numerous wives to molesting underage girls.
With Jeffs behind bars as of 2011, however, his brother Lyle Jeffs has taken over FLDS. But the church’s legal tangles didn’t end after their leader’s imprisonment.
Last September, the Labor Department sued FLDS for oppressive child-labor conditions, alleging that church leaders put at least 175 children younger than 13 to work to harvest pecans without compensation.
In January, a civil rights trial began against the twin polygamous towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah — collectively known as “Short Creek” — where FLDS is based. Prosecutors claim that the communities discriminate against residents who aren’t members of the church, depriving them of housing and essential services such as water and police protection. The church denies these allegations.
Another crushing blow came Tuesday. In the largest raid to hit Short Creek since the polygamist arrests of 1953, federal authorities indicted Lyle Jeffs, his brother Seth Jeffs and nine other church leaders on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.