U.S. Rep. Kay Granger formally asked Congress on Wednesday to investigate the business ties between the federal government and a polygamist sect that is the focus of one of the largest child custody cases in the nation’s history.
In a letter to the House Armed Services Committee, Granger, R-Fort Worth, said more should be known about NewEra Manufacturing. The business, owned and operated by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has received more than $1.2 million in military contracts.
The sect, also known as FLDS, has been under investigation at its 1,691-acre compound near Eldorado, 45 miles south of San Angelo, since authorities received a call from a 16-year-old girl who said she had been sexually and physically abused by her 50-year-old “spiritual” husband. During a raid that began April 3, state authorities took 416 children into custody.
“As a member of Congress, I am concerned that federal tax dollars may have been misused to fund this sect’s illegal activities,” Granger wrote in the letter.
The federal contracts, many given without bid competition, were awarded by the Defense Department primarily for wheel and braking systems and other military aircraft components. NewEra’s work for the government and its ties to the FLDS were reported Sunday by the Star-Telegram.
Las Vegas-based NewEra, previously known as Western Precision of Hildale, Utah, also received a $900,000 loan backed by the federal Small Business Administration.
Granger said she would like the congressional investigation to look into reports that sect members worked for no, or very low, pay at NewEra and that company profit went directly to the FLDS or its leader, Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs is still considered the sect’s prophet even though he has been sentenced to two terms of five years to life in prison on charges of being an accomplice to rape for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl. He is in an Arizona jail awaiting additional charges.
The Defense Department, Granger said in the letter, “should explain the vetting process used to examine prospective contract recipients in general, and the NewEra Manufacturing contract in particular.”
A woman who answered the phone at NewEra said the company had no comment.