SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 20, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs, the lead defendant in a federal fraud case centered on the misuse of food stamps, has pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal.
Jeffs appeared Wednesday morning in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court before Judge Ted Stewart.
In exchange for the guilty plea to lesser food stamp fraud charges and Jeff’s failure to appear in court, a money-laundering charge was dropped.
The plea deal calls for Jeffs to serve two to four years on the fraud charge and one year for failure to appear in court, which is related to his escape from house arrest and spending a year as a fugitive from justice. The incarceration for the two counts will be served concurrently, meaning Jeffs faces three to five years in prison. Jeffs also has been ordered to pay $1 million in restitution.
Jeffs’ sentencing by Stewart is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Jeffs and 10 other defendants were charged in the fraud case, which officials say cost taxpayers more than $12 million over the course of several years.
Food stamps approved for individuals of the community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — centered in Hilldale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. — were instead used for the benefit of the group leaders and for communal use. In addition, many food stamps were used for non-food purchases, investigators said.
Of the others FLDS Church members arrested on fraud charges, nine took plea deals and charges against one were dismissed.
Jeffs escaped house arrest by slipping out of an FBI ankle bracelet in June of 2016. He remained a fugitive until his capture in June of 2017 in Yankton, South Dakota.
Lyle Jeffs, a former FLDS bishop, is a brother of FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving life plus 20 years in prison for two counts of sexual assault of a child, related to his role in forcing juvenile girls into marriage.