SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — The FBI on Saturday added the fugitive leader of a polygamous sect wanted on criminal charges of sexual conduct with a minor to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list — where he joins al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Warren Steed Jeffs, 50, leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which broke away from mainstream Mormonism after the main church renounced polygamy.
The Saturday night announcement by FBI and other officials was meant to coincide with a same-evening segment on Jeffs on the anti-crime show “America’s Most Wanted,” they told reporters.
Jeffs has been an elusive target, partly because he travels among several states, British Columbia and Mexico, said Keith Bennett, acting special agent in charge of the FBI division in Phoenix. The fugitive may travel with several loyal, armed bodyguards, the FBI says.
Jeffs’ movement is based in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City. Polygamy is freely practiced in Colorado City, a remote enclave that straddles the Arizona-Utah state line. Jeffs is accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.
The FBI hopes the increased visibility of adding Jeffs to its Most Wanted list and a higher reward for information directly leading to his arrest will prompt someone to come forward with his whereabouts.
“We think the inclusion of a $100,000 reward is going to mean that people are going to be much more aware of Warren Jeffs, they’re going to be much more aware of what he looks like, they’re going to be much more willing to come forward and assist us,” said Paul Charlton, U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona.
“We’ve now got a much better chance of locating this guy and bringing him back to justice,” Charlton added.
Jeffs faces charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in Utah and Arizona, sexual conduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor and rape as an accomplice, according to the FBI Web site.
He is also wanted for the alleged sexual assault of a minor in 2002 and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor that year. The alleged offenses took place in the vicinity of Colorado City, Arizona. Jeffs is wanted for rape as an accomplice in Utah.
The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list is determined by the agency’s deputy director, based on recommendations from field offices, Bennett said.