Firms with FLDS ties to present financial records

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Businesses that have ties to the Fundamentalist LDS Church and a troubled school district in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are scheduled to appear in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City today.

The businesses are being ordered to show up at the Matheson Courthouse with records pertaining to Jeffrey P. Jessop, the former financial director of the Colorado City Unified School District. The hearing is part of an Arizona grand-jury investigation by that state’s attorney general’s office — presumably into the embattled school district and its finances.

“I can’t tell you what the target is,” Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said in an interview Monday with the Deseret Morning News.

In 2000, Jessop became the financial director of the Colorado City Unified School District. That same year, FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs, now a fugitive on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, ordered members to pull their children out of public school, causing nearly two-thirds of the district’s students to leave.

Jessop resigned under pressure in 2005. The state of Arizona took over the school district after teachers went months without pay, and allegations of financial mismanagement surfaced. Police raided district offices and seized computers, records and files.

Grand-jury proceedings are typically kept confidential. The existence of the grand-jury investigation was revealed last month when the Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office was asked to serve subpoenas on four FLDS-linked companies in Utah — Valley Transportation, Valley Truss, Steeds Inc. and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the FLDS Church — and the church’s former lawyer. The Jody Wilkinson Acura car dealership in Salt Lake was also served, but employees said at the time they did not know why.

Some of the companies went out of business years ago.

In southern Utah, 17 men in the polygamous communities of Hildale and Colorado City are being served with subpoenas that order them to show up in 5th District Court in St. George next week and appear before a judge about the grand-jury investigation.

“We’re trying to get them served and assisting the attorney general’s office in Arizona and helping them with their investigation,” deputy Washington County Attorney Jerry Jaeger said Monday.

Jaeger confirmed that the subject of the subpoenas is Jeffrey P. Jessop.

Goddard said the school-district investigation came out of the initial problems reported in the polygamous border towns. Allegations had surfaced about child-bride marriages, sexual abuse of minors and financial mismanagement in Hildale and Colorado City.

“First, the problem we investigated was young women being abused, which led to young men being exiled, which made the school district an issue,” he said. “All those have started and directly developed out of the first investigations of sexual abuse of a minor. One lead sort of takes you to another and another.”

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Deseret Morning News, USA;br />May 9, 2006 ;br />Ben Winslow;br />

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)