2 polygamous leaders are arrested while awaiting trial on food-stamp-fraud charges

The Salt Lake Tribune/August 1, 2016

By Erin Alberty

Two leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were arrested Monday on suspicion of violating the terms of their release from jail as they await trial in a food-stamp-fraud case.

Seth Jeffs — brother to imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs — and John Wayman, a business owner and former bishop for the polygamous sect, were booked into Washington County jail after being accused of violating their pre-trial release conditions, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City.

The men were ordered to wear GPS ankle monitors and remain in Utah, though Seth Jeffs was given limited travel release to South Dakota, where he leads an FLDS congregation. Rydalch did not say which conditions the men are suspected of violating. Jail records indicate Seth Jeffs was arrested by a Washington County sheriff's deputy, while Wayman was arrested by a federal agent.

Meanwhile, agents have been searching for Lyle Jeffs, FLDS bishop and Warren Jeffs' second-in-command, since he escaped June 18 from home confinement. Investigators say he likely lubricated his ankle monitor with olive oil and slipped out of it, leaving his Salt Lake City home.

Neighbors said they saw a dark, newer model Ford Mustang arrive and later leave the home the night of June 18 but could not identify who was in the car, the FBI has reported. Jeffs was prohibited from talking with witnesses, co-defendants and Warren Jeffs. The judge also ordered him to surrender his passport.

The FBI has urged anyone with information on Lyle Jeffs' whereabouts to call the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office at 801-579-1400 or, if outside of Utah, the nearest FBI office.

Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs, Wayman and eight others have pleaded not guilty to fraud and money-laundering charges alleging they diverted at least $12 million worth of food-stamp benefits from FLDS members in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., collectively known as Short Creek. FLDS sect leaders instructed followers to donate items they bought with their food-stamp cards to a church warehouse, prosecutors say, then the leaders decided how to distribute the products among the membership.

In addition, food stamps allegedly were cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

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