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Escaped FLDS Leader Arrested In SD

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The leader of the fundamentalist Mormon church who escaped authorities nearly a year ago is in jail in South Dakota. Officials in Utah say Lyle Jeffs likely faces a felony charge for escaping custody in addition to food stamp fraud charges.

South Dakota authorities discovered Lyle Jeffs Wednesday evening near Yankton. A tip the day before included a description of late model Ford F-150. FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart in Salt Lake City says that identified the FLDS leader.

“It was actually the acting chief of the Yankton PD who was off duty at the time down near the marina near Yankton, and he saw that vehicle,” Barnhart says. “He called in for backup, backup arrived, a felony car stop was conducted, and, again, Mr. Jeffs was taken into custody.”

Barnhart says authorities estimate Jeffs was in the area for a couple of weeks and lived out of his car. They expect him back in Utah in the next several days.

Last year Jeffs was under home confinement for food stamp fraud charges when he escaped his ankle monitor and fled authorities.

Multiple people connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints took plea deals for abusing the SNAP program. Utah US Attorney John Huber says he won’t discuss plea possibilities for Jeffs.   

“That being said, we have always viewed Mr. Lyle Jeffs as the lead defendant in this prosecution, and our approach with him will in no way resemble the way we have handled and processed the other defendants in this case,” Huber says.

The FLDS has a compound in Pringle, South Dakota. Lyle Jeffs is the brother of Warren Jeffs who is in prison for sexual crimes related to underage girls he called his “spiritual wives.”

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).
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