SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 3, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Federal prosecutors this week offered plea deals to most of the 11 FLDS sect members charged with defrauding the federal food stamps program, according to their lawyers.
Most of the defendants, charged with felonies, have been offered the chance to plead guilty to misdemeanors and to avoid prison time.
The attorneys of at least two of the defendants, Kimball Dee Barlow and Ruth Barlow, plan to take the offered deals.
Rudy J. Bautista, Ruth Barlow’s attorney, has said he believes deals have been offered to all defendants except Lyle Jeffs. The former bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints escaped from court-ordered home confinement in June. His location remains unknown.
The polygamist sect is based in the cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to comment on the plea deals offered or to provide more details.
All are charged with conspiracy to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which previously was known as food stamps, and with money laundering.
The charges stem from an investigation that found FLDS Church members were required to turn over SNAP cards or food bought with them to church officials for church use or to be converted into cash for unapproved purchases. The trial for all 11 is set for Jan. 30.