ST. GEORGE — Three leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have been arrested for allegedly violating the terms of their pretrial release from jail in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud and money laundering case.
Seth Jeffs – brother to imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs – and John Wayman, a business owner and former bishop for the polygamous sect, were arrested Monday while Preston Barlow was arrested Tuesday. The three men were booked into Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility after being accused of violating their pretrial release conditions.
Seth Jeffs, Wayman and Barlow appeared in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert T. Braithwaite in St. George Tuesday afternoon where all three men entered a denial of the allegations for the time being.
Braithwaite scheduled a hearing for Aug. 9 in Salt Lake City’s federal court, where Judge Ted Stewart will consider whether Jeffs and Wayman should be released again pending trial. Barlow is to appear with his attorney, Scott Williams, before Braithwaite at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Seth Jeffs, Wayman and Barlow are among 11 FLDS church members charged in February with misusing food stamps and diverting the money to front companies and buy equipment. They have pleaded not guilty.
Earlier this year, the three men had been released from jail pending trial. As part of their release agreement, the men were ordered to wear GPS ankle monitors and were prohibited from associating with potential witnesses or other defendants in the case.
However, according to an Aug. 2 amended petition to the court by the U.S. Probation Office, the GPS ankle monitors worn by the men showed Seth Jeffs, Wayman and Barlow at the same location on multiple occasions in July.
Wayman and Seth Jeffs were allegedly at the same location on three different days in July, according to the court document, and Seth Jeffs, Wayman and Barlow were together Friday. Wayman was also out past his 10 p.m. curfew on July 26.
Meanwhile, FBI agents have been searching for another defendant Lyle Jeffs since he escaped June 18 from home confinement.
Lyle Jeffs is the brother of the polygamous sect’s highest leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides. Lyle Jeffs had been running day-to-day operations in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.
Authorities said Lyle Jeffs likely used olive oil or another lubricant to slip off his GPS ankle monitor when he escaped home confinement in Salt Lake City last month.
Prior to their release, federal prosecutors argued that Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs and Wayman were a “serious flight risk” and should not be released before trial.
Sam Brower, a private investigator who has been researching the FLDS church for the last 12 years, said he’s not surprised the men violated the terms of their pretrial release.
“They’re church leaders, they’re going to communicate with each other,” Brower said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re in communication with Lyle Jeffs.”
With Lyle Jeffs on the run, Brower said after Tuesday’s hearing that it’s a relief having Seth Jeffs, Wayman and Barlow back behind bars.
“They really don’t deserve to be out on bail,” Brower said of the defendants.
Seth Jeffs’ attorney, Jay Winward, declined to comment on the new charges following Tuesday’s hearing.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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