FLDS: An affidavit states the suspect denies knowing his brother’s hiding place; he is quoted as saying ‘prophets are persecuted’
Authorities in Colorado plan to ask a federal magistrate on Thursday to keep the younger brother of fugitive polygamous leader Warren Jeffs in jail until his trial in Denver on a charge of harboring a wanted person.
Defendants in federal cases usually are detained on the grounds that they are a flight risk, a danger to the community or both.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado on Tuesday declined to give details of what evidence prosecutors will present at the detention hearing before Magistrate Craig Shaffer in Denver.
Seth Steed Jeffs, 32, of Hildale, Utah, is accused of concealing the location of his older brother, the president of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), who is wanted on charges in Arizona related to his alleged arrangement of a marriage between a man who already was married and a 16-year-old girl.
If convicted, Seth Jeffs faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In an affidavit attached to the federal criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent J. Andrew Stearns wrote that Jeffs denied knowing the whereabouts of his older brother and said no FLDS members would ever help locate him. “The prophets are often persecuted,” Jeffs told investigators, according to the affidavit.
The FLDS Church, headquartered in the twin cities of Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., embraces polygamy as one of its beliefs. The sect broke away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over its abandonment of plural marriage in 1890.
Warren Jeffs, 49, who became FLDS leader in 2002, has not been seen by outsiders in at least a year and a half. Authorities have urged him to come forward to face the criminal charges against him and are offering a $10,000 reward for information about his whereabouts.
Seth Jeffs was arrested Friday by sheriff’s deputies in Pueblo County, Colo., who were checking out a report by a citizen of a possible drunken driver.
Officers stopped the suspicious vehicle on Interstate 25 near the city of Pueblo and found two occupants, driver Nathaniel Steed Allred, 27, and Jeffs, his passenger. According to the FBI affidavit, Allred told a deputy that Jeffs owned the vehicle and had paid him $5,000 to provide sexual services. Allred is a nephew of Seth and Warren Jeffs.
Allred and Jeffs were arrested on state charges of prostitution and solicitation for prostitution and then released with a summons to appear in court. In the meantime, deputies obtained a search warrant for the vehicle “based on the suspicious actions of the occupants.”
Inside they allegedly found approximately $140,000 in cash, seven cellular phones, several envelopes with prepaid credit cards and prepaid cellular phone cards and hundreds of other sealed envelopes, many addressed to “The Prophet” or “Warren Jeffs.” In addition, they discovered a glass donation jar with a photograph of Warren Jeffs attached and a label that said, “Pennies for the Prophet.”
A computer check of the name “Warren Jeffs” turned up a Mohave County, Ariz., grand jury indictment from June charging him with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, all related to his allegedly arranging the marriage. In addition, deputies found a federal warrant issued in Arizona accusing Jeffs of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Jeffs also has been sued in Utah by a nephew who claimed Jeffs sexually abused him when he was a young boy in the early 1980s.
The sheriff’s office contacted the FBI to assist in the investigation. Stearns says in the affidavit that the items seized from the vehicle “are often used by fugitives to elude capture.” He also noted that it is common practice of FLDS followers to provide monthly offerings to their leaders.
When Seth Jeffs called Friday afternoon to check on the status of his vehicle, he agreed to come to Pueblo from Castle Rock, Colo., for an interview.
He allegedly told investigators that he was a messenger for the FLDS Church and was bringing the envelopes and money from Hildale-Colorado City to a bishop in Texas.
The FLDS Church has been building a community outside Eldorado, a rural area in Schleicher County in the western part of the state. Sheriff David Doran said Tuesday he has been in contact with investigators in Colorado but declined to give any details about the probe or whether authorities believe they are close to finding Warren Jeffs.
In addition to Hildale-Colorado City and Eldorado, the FLDS also has property in Mancos, Colo., and Creston, British Columbia.
Last month, the FBI investigated reports that Jeffs had been sighted at Cabela’s in Lehi and at Strawberry Reservoir. However, the owners and passengers in vehicles associated with the trip told agents they were there with Jeffs’ brother, David.