Thursday, June 15, 2017
Federal authorities say polygamist religious leader Lyle Jeffs has been captured, nearly a year after he escaped from home confinement while he was accused in a multimillion-dollar food-stamp fraud scheme.
The FBI said Jeffs was taken into custody about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in southeastern South Dakota, where he is still being held.
Yankton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Rothschadl told the Associated Press that Jeffs surrendered without incident at a marina near Yankton, where an off-duty police detective spotted a vehicle that authorities believed the fugitive polygamist had been driving.
Jeffs escaped from his Utah home by using olive oil to slip off his ankle monitor in June 2016, the FBI said.
His attorney later came up with an unusual explanation for the religious leader's disappearance, arguing in court documents that Jeffs may have been raptured.
Jeffs assumed the role of leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known as FLDS) after his brother, Warren Jeffs, was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison for child rape.
The sect, which is based in Utah, emerged when Mormon leaders suspended the practice of polygamy in the late 1800s, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls the group "a white supremacist, homophobic, anti-government, totalitarian cult."
FLDS, which is not connected to the Mormon Church, continues to practice polygamy in small towns along the Utah-Arizona border.
As The Washington Post reported last year, Lyle Jeffs and other church leaders were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
They were accused of using benefits from beneficiaries for FLDS expenses.
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