Warren Jeffs ‘a fugitive,’ say the feds; criminal sex charges also await him
Law-enforcement officials Friday asked for the public’s help in tracking down polygamous leader Warren Steed Jeffs, revealing that a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution has been added to the state counts already pending against him.
“He’s considered a fugitive,” Special FBI Agent Deborah McCarley said of Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is based on the Utah-Arizona border.
Bringing a federal charge of unlawful flight against a defendant wanted on state counts is infrequent, “but it does happen,” McCarley said, adding that the FBI has offices in every state and can follow up on any leads quickly.
The request for help comes from her agency and the Mohave County, Ariz., Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting Jeffs on charges that he arranged a marriage between an underage girl and a man who already was married.
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Gary Engels, special investigator for the Mohave County prosecutor, said the call for help in locating Jeffs will “step up the investigation.”
Jeffs, who has not been seen in public for at least a year and a half, was indicted June 9 by a Mohave County grand jury on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, each punishable by up to a year in prison. He is not accused of having sex with the 16-year-old but allegedly set up her marriage to the 28-year-old married man.
An arrest warrant was issued June 10 by an Arizona district judge on the state charges.
A U.S. magistrate in Flagstaff, Ariz., issued a warrant for Jeffs’ arrest on the unlawful flight count June 27.
Authorities have encouraged Jeffs to come forward to face the charges. His whereabouts remain unknown, but the FLDS has property in the twin communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.; Eldorado, Texas; Mancos, Colo.; and Creston, British Columbia.
Jeffs also has been named as a defendant in three civil suits filed in Utah and was stripped last month, along with other trustees, of power over an FLDS fund. Process servers have been unsuccessful in locating him to serve him with legal papers and instead have published notices in newspapers in Utah, Arizona, Texas and Canada.
The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint left polygamy behind in 1890 as a condition of statehood and now excommunicates members who practice it.
Jeffs is 49, 6 foot 4 and 150 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI office in Flagstaff at 928-774-0631 or the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-526-1911.