FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs flees custody, federal warrant issued for his arrest

Lyle Jeffs in a booking photo released by the Davis County Utah Jail. On Tuesday several top leaders from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect including Lyle Jeffs were arrested on federal accusations of food stamp fraud and money laundering — marking one of the biggest blows to the group in years., Photo Date: 2/23/16 ( Photo: Davis County Jail / MGN )

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - Lyle Jeffs, a leader of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has fled custody less than two weeks after a judge allowed him to await federal trial from a Salt Lake County area home.

The U.S. Attorney in Utah has issued a warrant for the arrest of Jeffs, who absconded home confinement sometime over the weekend.

Sam Brower, a private investigator who has dedicated much of his career to investigating illegal activity in the polygamous communities of Hildale and Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona border, told 2News that sources in law enforcement are looking for Jeffs and have asked for the public's help in finding him.

"He's a fugitive," Brower said.

Jeffs, who is awaiting trial on conspiracy charges that include a multi-million dollar food stamp scheme and money laundering, was granted release from jail on June 9.

Conditions of Jeffs' release included home confinement, electric monitoring and no contact with witnesses, according to the court order.

The order allowed for Jeffs, who was to stay at a home somewhere in Salt Lake County, to leave the residence for doctors appointments, religious services and a job.

Jeffs, who has been leading polygamist communities in Hildale and Colorado City, is one of 11 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints facing charges of conspiracy to commit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney in the District of Utah.

The indictment, unsealed Feb. 23, 2016, alleges that FLDS church leaders used SNAP proceeds from authorized beneficiaries for "unapproved purposes."

A large percentage of those living in Short Creek -- the area on the Utah and Arizona boarder made up of mostly FLDS members -- receive SNAP benefits amounting to millions of dollars each year, according to the Department of Justice.

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