A young girl's desperate attempt to flee a polygamous marriage to her uncle has put the Kingston clan where it doesn't want to be: in the public spotlight.
The "organization, as insiders refer to it, has maintained a remarkably low profile in Utah at the same time it has built a financial empire that ranks it among Utah's most sizable corporations. Various reports have estimated the Kingston holdings at $150 million to $170 million.
But one source intimately familiar with the Kingston organization's inner workings - and who asked to remain unnamed out of fear of reprisals from the family - says an oft-published $170 million figure is laughably low.
Tracing the clan's holdings is difficult, though, given the Kingston's penchant for placing businesses and real estate holdings under corporate titles and other names that shield the Kingstons from direct scrutiny.
Their Utah-based empire is huge, however, and spans at least six states.
A check of public documents in Salt Lake County alone of business and real estate holdings reveals an astonishing array of enterprises. Department of Commerce records show at least 48 businesses affiliated with the Kingston family. According to property tax records, they are connected with 23 commercial and residential properties in Salt Lake County valued at $3.3 million listed under a Kingston entity called "World Enterprises." (Other properties likely are held under other names.)
Two locations serve as primary headquarters for many Kingston operations; a tidy but nondescript brick building it 3212 S. State St., and a nearby concrete warehouse-line structure at 53 W. Angelo Ave.
Chances are many Salt Lakers have unknowingly patronized the extended polygamous clans' companies, which include vending machine businesses, an ice distributor, accounting and financial firms, grocery and clothing stores, a fitness spa, and even a preschool.
Among the businesses: Standard Restaurant Equipment Co.; Fidelity Funding Corp.; Fountain of Youth Health and Athletic Club; East Side Market; Mountain Coin Machines Distributors; American Digital Systems; Family Stores True Value; and Little Red School house Montessori.
Adding to the Kingstons's coffers are farms and businesses in northern Utah, and and holdings in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, California and Nevada -- including business associations with casinos, the Observer's source said.
One of Kingstons's most profitable enterprises is a bituminous coal and lignite mine in Huntington (Carbon County), which at one time brought in revenues of $ 1 million a month, according to the observer's source.
One member of the organization operates Bail Bond Specialists - the firm that posted a $10,000 bond to release David 0. Kingston from jail after he was charged earlier this month with two counts of incest and one count of unlawful sexual conduct with his niece, all third-degree felonies. The girl was David 0. Kingston's 15th wife; her father, John Daniel Kingston and David 0. Kingston are brothers.
The plight of the girl, identified in court records only as "M.N.," became public after her father took her to one -of the family's northern Utah farms and severely beat her for attempting to escape her arranged polygamous marriage, according to police reports. John Daniel Kingston has been charged with one count of child abuse, a second- degree felony. The 47-year-old girl is now in protective state custody.
The case has resurrected a sordid side of Utah culture.
Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, never publicly endorsed polygamy, according to historian Richard S. Van Wagoner, author of Mormon Polygamy: A History. But he engaged in the practice secretly and in 1843 received a revelation from God that the practice of plural marriage was a necessary element of celestial marriage."
Mr. Smith had 33 wives by some accounts; Brigham Young, second leader of the church, had 27 wives. The practice was so prolific that many native Utahns' have polygamist roots - including Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt.
The church, however, publicly renounced polygamy in 1890 and, as a condition of gaining statehood for Utah in 1896, political leaders were forced to include a ban on the practice in Article III of the state's constitution, which ensures religious freedom while "forever" prohibiting polygamous or plural marriages.