SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Pressure is being put on law enforcement officers in the twin polygamist communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, to cooperate in the investigation into possible theft of assets from their sect’s trust fund.
In another development, a court-appointed fiduciary who manages the fund said the sect’s fugitive leader reportedly was urging certain followers to move to Saskatchewan in Canada.
An attorney for the fiduciary said that it appears the sect’s new outposts in Colorado, South Dakota, Texas and Nevada were not built with trust funds, but resources from the fund may have been diverted to the enclaves.
Attorney Jeff Shields told 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg on Thursday that it appeared the outpost properties were bought in 2003 — before the court appointed Bruce R. Wisan to manage the trust — with monetary and labor contributions by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Most residents of Colorado City and Hildale belong to the FLDS church, and most of the property in the two communities is owned by the sect’s trust arm, the United Effort Plan.
The Utah attorney general’s office asked the courts last year to remove the controlling trustees of the UEP, including fugitive church leader Warren Jeffs, on the grounds that Jeffs and other church leaders allegedly were misusing trust property. Jeffs is wanted on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on an Arizona charge that he arranged a plural marriage between a 16-year-old girl and an older man.
On Thursday, Lindberg called on attorneys general in Utah and Arizona to address a “fundamental breakdown” in the cooperation of FLDS law officers.
Deputies with the Colorado City-Hildale town marshal’s office allegedly have refused to assist investigations into the alleged theft of assets from the trust.
Lindberg issued a plea to FLDS members to “meet us halfway” in helping to reform the property trust, which she said was put in jeopardy by the sect’s own religious leaders.
Meanwhile, an Arizona attorney hired by Wisan filed motions Thursday to compel Town Marshal Fred Barlow and deputies Sam Johnson and Jonathan Roundy to answer questions about a grain elevator that disappeared from Four Square Milling in January and other missing equipment and buildings.
The attorney also filed motions seeking testimony from interim Colorado City Mayor Terrill Johnson, a founder of Four Square Milling, and Joe Johnson, the mill’s manager. Both men refused to answer questions during a February deposition.
Bill Richards, an Arizona assistant attorney general, said both states hand-delivered letters to Barlow and a deputy in March that reviewed their duty to assist Wisan.
Wisan and others have urged the states to decertify the officers.
Meantime, Wisan said Thursday that Jeffs may be creating a new colony in the Saskatchewan.
“There’s talk about maybe moving there and building a community, he said.
He did not know where in Saskatchewan the church may be going. It already has a community in British Columbia.
During the hearing, Wisan said he had been told as many as 40 percent of the FLDS communities may be moving to “a very remote, pristine area to start over again.” Church members would move to the new communities by invitation only.
“It’s the very righteous, the cream of the crop,” he said.