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Bank records, thousands of hours of video built polygamous sect food stamp fraud case

Published May 18, 2016 8:37 am

Polygamy • Prosecution wants trial postponed to Oct. 3.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Court filings offer new details of how federal agents built a fraud and money laundering case against members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The food stamp fraud investigation began almost two years before the indictments against 11 people were issued in February, according to an affidavit filed Monday from FBI Special Agent Chris Andersen. The FBI obtained video from surveillance cameras on poles from February 2015 until February of this year, according to the affidavit.

In October of 2015, a judge issued a warrant to plant a camera in Meadowayne Dairy, according to the filings. The filings indicate the camera recorded for a month.



"The massive amount of video equates to approximately 46 terabytes, which compares to approximately 69,000 compact discs," Andersen wrote in his affidavit.

The affidavit was part of a prosecution motion to postpone the trial for all 11 defendants until Oct. 3. At present, the trial is scheduled to begin May 31.

The government argues that there is too much evidence for either prosecutors or defendants to be prepared for trial so soon, and the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah is still trying to gather and organize all of the evidence to give to the defendants.

One of the defendants is Lyle Jeffs, who at the time of his arrest ran the day-to-day operations of the FLDS for his imprisoned brother, FLDS President Warren Jeffs.

Lyle Jeffs lawyer, Kathryn Nester, was reviewing the prosecution motion Monday afternoon.

"Our client is incarcerated and presumed innocent and we will file the appropriate motion with the court," she said.

All 11 defendants were indicted on Feb. 17 with a count of conspiracy to commit fraud through the food stamp program and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government alleges FLDS members were instructed to turn their food stamp debit cards into the church. Many of the cards were used at the dairy and converted to cash, prosecutors allege in court documents.

The filings don't specify how the FBI planted a camera in the dairy or from the poles outside. Meadowayne Dairy sits in Colorado City, Ariz. It and adjoining Hildale, Utah, have a network of surveillance cameras that have been utilized by both the local police force and the FLDS' own security force.

The filings show the FBI has already provided the defendants with about 38,500 pages of documents. One attachment with the filing was an index of bank records the FBI obtained through subpoenas.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

 

 

 

 

 

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