Judge extends orders freezing trust of polygamous sect

A judge on Monday extended for 10 days an order temporarily removing leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as managers of a church trust.

The United Effort Plan Trust was placed in the temporary control of a Salt Lake City certified public accountant May 27, after the Utah Attorney General’s office said the trustees, including reclusive FLDS President Warren Jeffs, had started to liquidate assets and could leave some members of the trust without any means of support.

That same day, several buildings believed to be owned by the trust were dismantled and disappeared from the twin border towns of Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.

Jeffs and other trustees — Truman Barlow, Winston Blackmore, LeRoy Jeffs, William E. Jessop (aka William Timpson), and James Zitting — have until June 22 to appear in court to object to the request they be permanently removed as trustees.

The trust was formed in the 1940s with assets from church members pooled together to be shared. Virtually all the property in Hildale and Colorado City, where the church is based and where an estimated 10,000 members live, has been part of the trust.

No one knows for sure how much money is in the trust, but Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and others have estimated it contains at least $100 million.

Utah Assistant Attorney General Tim Bodily said in court Monday that efforts to serve notice of the court order on the trustees has been difficult and only indirectly successful.

No one knows the actual whereabouts of the men, Bodily said. So notice has been served on them by mail, and in person through relatives, employers or other members of the church in Utah, Arizona, Texas and Canada.

Rod Parker, a Salt Lake attorney who for a time represented the church and the trust, also was served. But neither Parker nor any other attorney has yet appeared on behalf of the church in this matter.

And no one seems able to adequately enforce the court order, said Sam Brower, a southern Utah private investigator who works for some excommunicated church members. On Friday, Brower filed an affidavit with the court documenting the dismantling of church owned buildings in both cities last week.

Those efforts had continued daily since the initial order was signed, Brower said.

“They need to stop the looting,” Brower said Monday. “As of last night it was taking place.”

He said he had evidence of items being moved out of the FLDS’ meeting house and from a high-tech potato processing plant.

Also in court Monday was Marlene Mohn, an attorney representing three former church members whose children remain trust beneficiaries. Mohn said her clients are deeply concerned about what is happening.

“Look at what’s been happening, the dissipation, buildings are disappearing overnight,” said Mohn. “There’s all kind of smoke and mirrors with this property and basically, when the smoke clears, there’s going to be nothing left.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 9, 2005.
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