The story of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints keeps getting weirder and weirder.
It has gone beyond polygamy and pedophilia, beyond girls being handed over by their fathers to their contemporaries to be married, and beyond mothers ripping up photos of their young boys who were kicked out for listening to rock music, drinking and wearing short-sleeved shirts.
The latest twist in the Warren Jeffs saga are unproven allegations of extortion involving prostitution and the person appointed by a Utah court to keep the FLDS assets safe for Jeffs’s ill-treated followers.
The two main characters in this latest sideshow are: accountant Bruce Wisan, who was appointed by a Utah judge in 2005 as fiduciary; and Willie Jessop, a former bodyguard to the FLDS prophet who was the church’s spokesman during Jeffs’s trial that resulted in his conviction for raping two girls aged 12 and 15 and jailed for life.
Wisan was found in a hotel room with a prostitute in March 2013. Since then, a lawyer for one of the ill-treated FLDS followers says Jessop has been extorting Wisan for preferential prices on FLDS property that Wisan has been selling to cover his own fees.
And while all of this is happening in the United States, there are a bunch of Canadian connections. Wisan not only has oversight of all the church-owned property in Utah and Arizona, his name is on the titles to most of the townsite of Bountiful, B.C.
Bountiful is home to about 500 FLDS members and another 500 people who follow former bishop Winston Blackmore, who was once a trustee of the United Effort Plan which held all of the church’s assets.
Like Blackmore, Jessop was ex-communicated. But Jessop has since successfully sued the church, the trust and the leaders for $30 million for ruining his excavating business.
He’s also been buying up church property. Last year, Jessop bought Jeffs’s sprawling compound in Hildale, Utah for $3.6 million and has turned it into the America’s Most Wanted Bed and Breakfast — a sly reference to Jeffs having been on the FBI’s most wanted list in 2006.
Last month, Jessop bought 484.03 acres for $362,944 at an auction organized by Wisan. Jessop got the property even though his bids for some of that land were less than the minimum of 70 per cent of assessed value, which was set by the court, and even though others who didn’t meet the 70-per-cent threshold had their bids rejected.
Lawyer Alan Mortensen describes Jessop as having “a sweetheart deal” with Wisan that includes an unconditional release from any liability to the church trust.
During a deposition under oath last week, Mortensen asked Wisan why. Is it because Jessop knew about Wisan and the prostitute?
“Did (Jessop) ever approach you about (prostitute) Marissa Ann Payne when he wanted a sweetheart deal on his property?”
“Do you know if he had a file on you where Marissa Ann Payne was included?”
Wisan refused to answer whether he’d had sex with Payne before police burst into the Utah hotel room where she was arrested, hand-cuffed and charged with prostitution.
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