Attorney general also seeks replacement of trust fund trustees
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah attorney general’s office on Thursday asked a court to freeze the assets of a southern Utah polygamous church’s trust fund and replace its top leaders – including reclusive prophet Warren Jeffs – with an independent third party.
The state is seeking the immediate suspension of Jeffs’ authority, along with that of five other trustees, over the trust fund for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The trust, called the United Effort Plan, controls church property and assets.
The trust has been estimated to be as much as $100 million, but no one knows for sure, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Thursday.
Church members formed the trust during the 1940s, willingly turning over their property to the church, so that all could share in the community’s assets.
A hearing on the state’s request was scheduled Friday morning.
Shurtleff said the move is necessary because there is evidence that trustees have recently moved to divest some trust assets and are not acting in the best interests of all church members.
“In stepping in today, we are protecting members of the FLDS church,” Shurtleff said. “We think it’s very clear, and we think the court will see, that (Jeffs) has breached his fiduciary duties.”
Jeffs has not been seen in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, or Colorado City, Ariz., for more than a year. The FLDS church is currently building a compound on a 2,000-acre ranch near Eldorado, Texas, where Jeffs reportedly plans to move only select members of the church.
Some ousted church members believe Jeffs is draining the church’s trust in order to fund construction of the new compound, and they fear he will evict from their homes those who remain behind.
Shurtleff said he agreed with that motive, and pointed to the recent sales of certain properties in the twin communities. The properties are part of a lawsuit against Jeffs, who sold them despite the pending litigation.