Polygamist leader's brother held in federal prison

Associated Press/July 22, 2006
By Jennifer Dobner

Salt Lake City -- An accountant believed to hold the financial and family secrets of a polygamist church and its fugitive leader -- who is his brother -- is among five men being held in a federal prison after allegedly refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in Arizona.

Leroy Jeffs is the older brother of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. Once the lead accountant for the FLDS church, Leroy Jeffs was privy to details about the secretive church, including its property holdings, tithing information and detailed records of illegal plural marriages that occurred among the faith's estimated 10,000 members in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., a former church member said.

"I would say if anybody knew, Leroy knew," said Richard Holm, an excommunicated church member who continues to live in Hildale. "He would also know more about Warren's motives than anybody else."

But since April 18, Leroy Jeffs has been sitting in the Central Arizona Detention Facility in Florence, prison officials said Friday.

It could not immediately be determined if Leroy Jeffs has a lawyer.

Earlier this year, authorities located Leroy Jeffs living in Oklahoma and served him with a grand jury subpoena. But he refused to testify and was arrested on civil contempt of court charges, sources familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

Ann Harwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. district attorney for Arizona, said she could not confirm information about Leroy Jeffs, or anyone that may be connected to a grand jury investigation, because those proceedings are secret.

It is widely known, however, that federal officials first served grand jury subpoenas in January during an FLDS meeting. It is unknown how many people have been served or what the scope of the investigation might be.

Warren Jeffs, 50, is on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitive list for evading sexual assault charges related to plural marriages between underage girls and older men in both Utah and Arizona.

Also imprisoned in April were Mica S. Barlow, a Colorado City police officer, and James R. Allred, a postal clerk. Both men surrendered to authorities April 6 after a federal judge issued warrants for their arrest for contempt because they disregarded subpoenas.

More recently -- July 14 -- Samuel K. Allred and Leroy B. Timpson, two men with connections to the FLDS church and businesses, were booked into the Florence prison, authorities confirmed.

Samuel K. Allred works for Aspen Management Investment and R&W Excavating, companies owned by high-ranking church official Willie Jessop, a former trustee for the United Effort Plan Trust, which holds the collective property of church members, Holm said.

Timpson runs a kitchen and bath remodeling company and is the son-in-law of Wendell Nielsen, a church elder said to be in Warren Jeffs' inner circle, Holm said.

Both are also believed to have refused to provide testimony before the grand jury.

Under federal law, those charged with civil contempt can be held until the expiration of a grand jury's 18-month term.

Leroy Jeffs was reportedly sent to Oklahoma to "repent" last year after Warren Jeffs kicked him out of the church and reassigned Leroy's wives and children to other men.

Leroy Jeffs is the eldest son of Rulon Jeffs and his fourth wife, Marilyn Steed. Rulon Jeffs ran the FLDS church from the mid-1980s until his death in 2002, when Warren Jeffs assumed the role of church prophet.

With his father and later his brother, Leroy Jeffs managed all of the churches accounts, including signing UEP Trust deeds, when property moved in and out of the trust, Holm said.

Leroy Jeffs also collected and reviewed family survey information, including births, deaths and marriages.

"He would know marriage dates and times, and who performed the ceremonies, all of those things," Holm said.

Ward Jeffs, an older half-brother to Warren and Leroy who chose to leave the faith, said he visited Leroy Jeffs "for about 12 minutes" in prison last month.

"I appealed to him to step up and do the right thing and help other people," Ward Jeffs said. "To which he responded, 'I have nothing to say.' He thinks he's still guarding the security of a man who booted him and took his family away."

Ward Jeffs said church members likely believe their loyalty will be rewarded.

"Warren doesn't give a rat's hooey who goes down or who goes under for him," Ward Jeffs said. "They are afraid of repercussions. Testifying for them constitutes fighting against God's prophet and going to hell."

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