The fundamentalist Mormon sect leader who disappeared in June while on house arrest apparently slipped out of his ankle bracelet by using olive oil, the FBI said. He’s now at large, considered armed, dangerous, and in possession of some surprisingly Pinterest-worthy escape tips.
Lyle Jeffs is the acting head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints while his brother Warren, the true leader of the FLDS, is in jail for life for raping teenage girls. Lyle, another brother named Seth, and nine other people are awaiting charges on food stamp fraud and money laundering, an allegedly massive scheme that the government says defrauded them of some $12 million in taxpayer funds.
FBI Eric Barnhart told CNN that they believe Lyle disappeared last month with the aid of some olive oil: “He used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the GPS tracking band and slip it off his ankle.” The bracelet wasn’t damaged enough to alert authorities that it had been tampered with.
In a fun illustration of the concept of chutzpah, while he is a fugitive Jeffs has also been trying to get the charges against him dismissed, Fox 13 reports.
Jeffs’ attorneys argue that he and other FLDS members have a right “consecrate” their property (in this case their food stamp benefits) to the church. Jeffs and other FLDS leaders are accused of ordering FLDS members to hand over their food stamp benefits; authorities allege that when food stamps were cashed at sect-run convenience stores, they were pocketed and used to buy things like tractors, trucks and paper products. The government also alleges that the FLDS leaders had people turn over the things they bought to them, where they were stored in a warehouse and handed out as the leadership saw fit.
All of that is part of their religious freedom, Jeffs’ attorneys argue. From Fox 13:
In the filing, Jeffs’ defense attorney Kathryn Nester argues that Jeffs and other FLDS members have a right under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to consecrate their property to the church.
“Similar to the Amish parents ... who refused to compel their children to attend public high school, sincerely believing that high school attendance was contrary to the Amish religion and way of life and that they would endanger their own salvation and that of their children if they complied with the law, FLDS members believe a failure to donate their SNAP benefits (which is considered property), would be contrary to the FLDS religion and way of life that would endanger their own salvation,” she wrote.
Jeffs could be taking shelter in FLDS communities somewhere in the U.S. or in Mexico, Canada or South America, where he owns a ranch. The FBI asks anybody who’s seen Lyle to contact their local field office or the American Embassy.
Screenshot via FBI.