Former trustees of a trust that controlled most of the property of a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border have been accused of failing to protect the fund's assets and unjustly enriching themselves.
The damages to the United Effort Plan, an arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), amounts to more than $1 million, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Utah's 3rd District Court.
The suit, which also names the FLDS Church as a defendant, seeks unspecified damages. It was filed by Bruce Wisan, a special fiduciary who was appointed last year to protect UEP assets.
The legal action accuses all the defendants of wrongful taking and conversion of trust property, unjust enrichment, interference with contractual relations and prospective economic advantage and civil conspiracy. The former trustees also are accused of breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty and profits arising from administration of the trust.
The trustees - FLDS president Warren Jeffs, Truman I. Barlow, Leroy S. Jeffs, James K. Zitting and William E. Timpson - could not be reached for comment. Jeffs is a fugitive who is wanted in Utah and Arizona on sex-abuse charges for allegedly arranging marriages between minor girls and men who already were married.
The FLDS established the UEP in 1942 to manage properties consecrated to the church. A series of lawsuits filed against the church and Jeffs led to the suspension of the trustees and the appointment of Wisan by a 3rd District judge at the request of the Utah Attorney General's Office, which feared the possible loss of trust assets to pay any judgments awarded to plaintiffs.
Wisan's suit alleges the trustees failed throughout the years to place donations of money, property and services into the UEP. They also allegedly transferred property that was in the trust to third parties for little or no consideration after two lawsuits were filed in 2004 by young men who claimed they were wrongly expelled from the community.
In addition, within hours of the May 2005 suspensions, the trustees and the FLDS Church had a work crew disassemble an 18,000-square-foot building on trust land and haul it away, according to the suit. In other incidents, according to the suit, crews removed equipment and fixtures from a potato processing plant and hauled away a grain elevator system that was on UEP land.
The lawsuit also claims the trustees and church collected property tax payments from trust occupants but stopped collection after the suspensions and paid only a small portion of the amount owed.