‘Prophet’ Warren Jeffs remains on the lam, financed by his followers
There are a couple of remarkable things about the arrest of polygamous leader Warren Jeffs‘ younger brother last week. One gives a chilling insight into the depth of devotion enjoyed by an indicted fugitive. Another shows the importance of multistate cooperation to catch him.
A donation jar found with Jeffs’ brother, Seth, had a picture of the wanted man and an invitation to offer “Pennies for the Prophet.” The $142,000 in cash and thousands of dollars worth of prepaid phone and credit cards found in Seth Jeff’s car show that far more than pennies support his brother, the “prophet” of the polygamous cult called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Other information found with Seth Jeffs offered valuable information about how Warren is operating, says Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
It was a “breakthrough,” adds Gary Engels. He’s the investigator for the Mohave County Attorney’s Office who gathered the evidence that led to the indictment of Warren Jeffs and other cult members on charges relating to forced marriages of minor girls to older, already-married men.
Warren Jeffs’ dogma teaches that a man needs three wives to reach the best neighborhoods in heaven. Young brides are especially prized.
The younger Jeffs is believed to be one of many couriers who keep the prophet-on-the-lam living in the manner to which he has become accustomed, multiple wives and all.
Warren Jeffs’ well-fleeced flock adds an extra $1,000 per month per man to the regular 10 percent tithe Jeffs has long demanded. They remain fiercely loyal, says Engels, who maintains an office in the nation’s largest openly polygamous community, the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
Authorities in Arizona and Utah have done a good job working together. But efforts to move against this cult have to be as far-reaching as Jeffs’ empire, which stretches into a number of western states as well as Mexico and Canada.
Warren Jeffs is believed to regularly visit a newly built compound in Texas, so cooperation with local law enforcement there is critical, says Goddard.
“We need to tighten the net everywhere,” he adds.
In Colorado, where Seth Jeffs and a companion were arrested on charges of prostitution, they were initially released. After local authorities searched Jeffs’ vehicle, the FBI was brought in. Seth Jeffs was lured in and locked up after he called to check on his car.
According to a report in the Denver Post, U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer said, “I truly do not believe . . . it should work against this defendant that he is a member of a particular religious community.”
The FLDS is not a “religious community.” It is a cult that is implicated in child sexual abuse, welfare fraud and other crimes.
Warren Jeffs’ followers are dedicated and coordinated in their efforts to keep him hidden. Efforts to bring him to justice need to be equally dedicated and increasingly coordinated.