Members of Fundamentalist Mormon Sect Re-Arrested While Awaiting Trial for Food Stamp Fraud

Seth Jeffs in July 2014 in Pierre, South Dakota. Photo via AP.

Life inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints continues to be surprisingly eventful: three members of the polygamous sect got themselves re-arrested this week, while already awaiting trial on federal food stamp charges. The FLDS’ acting leader, who escaped his ankle bracelet with help of olive oil, remains a fugitive.

Several top members of the FLDS are awaiting trial on charges that they defrauded the government of millions of dollars using an elaborate food stamp and money laundering scheme. Lyle Jeffs, the acting head of the FLDS after his brother Warren was sentenced to life in prison for “spiritually marrying” and raping teenage girls, fled from house arrest in June. Three more FLDS leaders were taken into custody Monday and Tuesday, after authorities said they were communicating with each other in violation of the terms of their pre-trial supervised release.

From left: Seth Jeffs, John Wayman and Preston Barlow. Booking photos courtesy of Purgatory Jail via Fox 13.

Seth Steed Jeffs, John Wayman and Preston Barlow were the three men who were re-arrested: Jeffs is the brother of Lyle and Warren and the bishop of the sect’s South Dakota congregation. Wayman is believed to be a leader in the towns on the Arizona-Utah state line where the church is based, and Barlow is the manager of the Meadowayne Dairy Store in Colorado City, Utah, where some of the fraud allegedly took place. Fox 13 reports that all three were wearing GPS devices, which revealed Jeffs and Wayman had been in the same place together at least four times in late July. Barlow was with them on July 29, according to the GPS data.

The case has huge implications because it could, after years of effort from the government, be the thing that dismantles the FLDS. But even as it goes after what the government says are the church’s corrupt leaders, it has sparked a panic among its rank-and-file members, who were already dealing with poverty and regular food shortages, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in February. The trial is set for October.

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About the author

Anna Merlan

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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