US: Polygamous Sect Members Indicted For Food Stamp Fraud

Published: 24 February 2016

warrenjeffs_copy.pngWarren Jeffs (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)


Eleven members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) were charged with conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to an indictment from the US District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division. 

 Food stamps are a federal program that helps low-income individuals purchase food. Prosecutors allege that FLDS leadership directed church members to divert their benefits to the FLDS Storehouse, a communal clearinghouse charged with collecting and disbursing commodities to the community. Leaders also provided instruction on how to avoid detection by the government, according to the indictment.

The indictment says the FLDS church broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon Church, after the church renounced polygamy. The breakaway sect is headquartered in a community that straddles the Utah-Arizona border. Leaders include Lyle and Seth Jeffs, brothers of imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence for sexual assault, according to Reuters.

Sect members were taught to swipe electronic benefit cards at church-run stores without receiving any products, leaving the money to the store owners, according to the indictment,  while others gave their cards to those who were not supposed to use them. The indictment cites one instance in which fraud proceeds were used for installment payments on a Ford F-350.

Reuters reports that those convicted could face up to 25 years in prison.