A federal magistrate judge on Thursday recommended a Hildale company and its president be ordered to provide names, ages and contact information for every person who helped harvest pecans at the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch last December, saying she found claims that the information was unknown "disingenuous."
Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse also recommended that Brian Jessop, president of Paragon Contractors Corp., be ordered to provide the name of the church leader then in place when an estimated 1,400 school-age children and their parents participated in the pecan harvest at the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch in Hurricane. Jessop is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamous sect based in Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz. The children and their parents also are reportedly members of the sect, as is the unidentified church bishop.
The U.S. Department of Labor began a child labor investigation of the nut gathering operation because it took place during school hours and allegedly involved underage children. It went to court in April after the company failed to provide requested information about each person who participated. In an interview with Dale Barlow, who acted as Paragon's agent in arranging the harvest, the department learned that between 2008 and 2010 as many as 300 school-age FLDS children participated in annual pecan harvests at the ranch. In 2011, Barlow estimated the number of children who participated at 600.