Treasurer: Polygamist sect past due on taxes

Associated Press/March 29, 2011

Custer, South Dakota - A polygamist sect that owns a 140-acre compound near Pringle is more than $178,000 past due on its property taxes, according to Custer County records.

The Rapid City Journal reports that the United Order of South Dakota, which is the legal name of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community, has paid none of its 2009 property taxes due last year. The group is also more than two years past due for part of its 2008 taxes that were due in 2009.

County Treasurer Dawn McLaughlin said late tax payments are unusual for the group, which had always paid on time and in cash.

The group has owned land in Custer County since 2003 and historically has always paid its tax bill in two installments.

"They have never been delinquent before," McLaughlin said.

The FLDS practices polygamy as a religious belief, and its president and spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, is in a Texas prison on charges of bigamy and sexual abuse of a child.

Its religious roots are tied to the early teachings of Joseph Smith who founded the mainstream Mormon church. Smith's church abandoned the practice of plural marriage in 1890.

It's not known how many people live at the South Dakota compound, which is known for its secrecy and a guard tower on its property along Farmer Road.

McLaughlin said the group will owe another $80,424.80 in 2010 property taxes this year. If the tax bill goes unpaid, the county will have the legal right to start proceedings to acquire the property in December of 2012, she said.

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