SALT LAKE CITY – Just after a court order freezing some assets of a southern Utah polygamist sect, several buildings believed to be owned by the religious order were dismantled and moved, a likely violation of the judge’s ruling.
In Hildale, an 18,000-square foot warehouse-type building, once the location of Cozy Log Homes mill and construction company, was dismantled over the weekend, said Sam Brower, a private investigator employed by several dissidents of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
And in bordering Colorado City, Ariz., a 34-foot by 130-foot building near an elementary school was uprooted from its concrete foundation and moved – somewhere – over the weekend.
“They cleaned it out,” said Brower, who videotaped and photographed some of the work over the weekend. “I gave them a copy of the (temporary restraining order) and told them they had no authority to even be there any longer, that the trustees were no longer in charge.”
A 3rd District Court judge on May 27 ordered a Salt Lake certified public accountant to take control of the FLDS’ United Effort Plan, a trust which controls church property and assets. That action also removed the fund’s six trustees, including reclusive church leader Warren Jeffs.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff petitioned for the order, arguing that church leaders have systematically sold off land in the trust to a small, select group of people, leaving most members without trust benefits.
The trust was formed in the 1940s with assets from church members pooled together to be shared. Virtually all of the property in Hildale and Colorado City, where about 10,000 church members live, has been part of the trust.
Shurtleff said Thursday it was not clear whether the two dismantled buildings were still part of the trust or had been sold.
If they are, then the removals are “likely contempt of the order,” said Shurtleff, who became aware of the move over the Memorial Day holiday. “I guess I’m not surprised anymore at what happens down there.”
Shurtleff said authorities were attempting to serve notice of the judge’s order to Jeffs and the five other known trustees, Truman Barlow, Winston Blackmore, LeRoy Jeffs, William E. Jessop (aka William Timpson) and James Zitting.
Attempts by The Associated Press on Thursday to reach every trustee by telephone were not successful.
Church leaders also did not respond to a letter faxed to an FLDS-owned ranch in Eldorado, Texas, where Jeffs is reportedly living.
But Texas authorities did serve notice of the court order Wednesday through FLDS representatives who came to the sheriff’s office in Eldorado, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said.
“The best thing that we could tell them was that if they couldn’t get the papers to Jeffs, to get them to their attorney,” Doran said.
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