The FBI on Tuesday added $50,000 to a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the fugitive leader of a polygamous sect based on the Utah-Arizona border, bringing the total to $60,000.
Special Agent Deborah McCarley of the agency’s Phoenix office said officials hope the enhanced reward will encourage someone to reveal the whereabouts of Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), who dropped out of sight about two years ago. She described the amount as significant for a local fugitive who is not on the FBI’s national Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
In July, Utah and Arizona authorities offered a $10,000 reward for information about Jeffs, who was charged by a Mohave County, Ariz., grand jury with one count each of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.
A federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was brought against him a few weeks later.
The state charges, which carry sentences of up to two years in prison, are based on Jeffs’ alleged arrangement of a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 28-year-old man who already was married. He is not accused of having sex with the teenager.
The FLDS hews to the early teachings of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, including plural marriage. The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left polygamy behind in 1890 and now excommunicates members who practice it.