Group owns land in Colorado, promotes polygamy
Salt Lake City – Fugitive polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs may have been sighted in Leesburg, Fla., a new wanted flier circulated by the FBI said.
Leesburg was among a handful of places where Jeffs, possibly accompanied by his bodyguards and some of his followers, has been thought possibly to be hiding.
Jeffs, 49, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Most of the sect’s estimated 10,000 followers live in the twin border communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, but the church also has property in Colorado, Texas and British Columbia.
Jeffs is wanted on three charges of sexual conduct with a minor in connection with his role performing marriages between allegedly underage girls and older men. He also is charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
A $10,000 reward has been offered by Arizona and Utah.
“Different tips and information coming to our office have him sighted, or a look-alike sighted, in Florida,” said Deborah McCarley, FBI special agent in Phoenix. “We don’t have any definitive information, it’s just one of the many places that has come up.” Leesburg, population 15,956, is a retirement haven in the middle of Florida. The flier says members of the FLDS church may be trying to acquire property in the area.
The flier notes that Jeffs has not been seen by any outsiders since 2004, when government scrutiny of the FLDS community based at the Utah-Arizona border intensified.
Ezra Draper, a former FLDS member who now lives in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, told The Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday he suspects Jeffs may have traveled to Bountiful, British Columbia, in early July, given the sudden appearance of dozens of FLDS faithful in the area.
“I saw people I hadn’t seen in a dozen years,” Draper said.
“I know he’s been up here half a dozen times before this $10,000 reward was put out.”