ST. GEORGE — Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints polygamous sect leader Lyle Steed Jeffs is in police custody after nearly a year on the lam, the FBI Field Office in Salt Lake City announced Thursday.
Jeffs, 57, was arrested in South Dakota around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. He was booked into the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls just before midnight on a U.S. Marshals hold. He is being held without bond.
Few details of the capture were immediately provided. The FBI is expected to hold a news conference in Salt Lake City on Jeffs’ arrest Thursday afternoon.
Jeffs and 11 co-defendants, also members of the polygamous sect, were arrested in February 2016 on charges of diverting at least $12 million worth of federal benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Jeffs and other leaders were accused of instructing followers to buy items with their food stamp cards and give them to a church warehouse where leaders decided how to distribute products to followers.
Lyle Jeffs was released from jail on June 9, 2016, and ordered to home confinement while awaiting trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme within the FLDS church.
FBI officials said they believe Lyle Jeffs used olive oil to slip off his GPS ankle bracelet during the evening hours of June 18, 2016, and abscond from home confinement in Salt Lake City.
FBI investigations revealed that after absconding, Lyle Jeffs spent time in the Short Creek area in July 2016.
The twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona – collectively known as Short Creek – straddle the Utah-Arizona border and are home base to thousands of FLDS members who consider Warren Jeffs to be the church’s prophet and mouthpiece of God on Earth.
In August 2016, federal authorities announced they were offering a $50,000 reward to the person or persons who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of Lyle Jeffs and elevated Jeffs to the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list.
Meanwhile, Jeffs’ co-defendants resolved their cases by pleading guilty to felony or misdemeanor charges. All avoided jail time or paying restitution.
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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