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Lyle Jeffs — the leader of the polygamous FLDS in southern Utah and northern Arizona, who absconded and violated the terms of his release pending trial over a food-stamp-fraud case — likely escaped his court-ordered GPS tracking device by oiling up and slipping out of it, the FBI says.

The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints used "some sort of lubrication, possibly olive oil" to free himself from his ankle monitor nearly a month ago, according to Sandra Yi Barker, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Salt Lake City division.

Agents spoke with neighbors of Jeffs' Salt Lake City home, where he was ordered to stay, except for a few reasons such as work, doctor's appointments and court hearings, Yi Barker said Monday night.

"Investigators did see a newer model dark [Ford] Mustang pull into the garage at the house at about 10:30 p.m. on June 18," Yi Barker said. Witnesses saw the vehicle leave the residence later that night, though they "could not identify who was in the car," she said.

The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Jeffs the next day.

Jeffs was prohibited from talking with witnesses, co-defendants and his brother, imprisoned sect leader Warren Jeffs. The judge also ordered him to surrender his passport.

Lyle Jeffs and 10 others have pleaded not guilty to fraud and money-laundering charges alleging they diverted at least $12 million worth of federal benefits.

Sect leaders instructed followers to buy items with their food-stamp cards, prosecutors say, and give them to a church warehouse, where leaders decided how to distribute the products to followers.

They say food stamps were cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

Yi Barker urged anyone with information on Lyle Jeffs' whereabouts to call the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office at 801-579­-1400 or a local FBI office.

Twitter: @NickParkerSTET