Utah polygamist sect leader Lyle Jeffs flees justice after giving FBI the slip using olive oil

July 14, 2016 7:30 am


sect leader Lyle Jeffs used olive oil to slip out of his FBI ankle
bracelet while on home detention pending trial in a multimillion-dollar
food stamp scam. Photo / AP via Davis County Jail

The leader of a polygamous Utah sect in may have
came up with a simple but slippery way to escape law enforcement late
last month: olive oil.
Lyle Jeffs, the leader of The
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known
as FLDS) was initially being held in jail after federal authorities
arrested him and 10 other church leaders over a food-stamp-fraud case
earlier this year.
Despite pleas from federal prosecutors and
estranged family members who warned that Jeffs would escape, US District
Court Judge Ted Stewart ultimately decided to release him in early June
because his trial was delayed. He would come to regret his decision
less than two weeks later when he escaped.
The FLDS church, which
splintered off more than 70 years ago from the mainstream the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is known widely for its polygamy and
came under national scrutiny when the church’s self-described “prophet”
Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for raping a
child.

Its legal troubles didn’t end there. Church leaders have also
been previously accused of harsh child-labour conditions and more
recently of running a $12 million food stamp fraud and money-laundering
scheme. Members live in remote areas of Utah and Arizona and are highly
secretive and distrustful of the US Government.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described FLDS as a “white supremacist, homophobic, anti-government, totalitarian cult.”
In
his sermons, Warren Jeffs has declared homosexuality “the worst evil
act you can do, next to murder,” and has implored women to “build up
young husbands by being submissive.”
Although Judge Stewart had
set strict conditions upon Jeffs pretrial release; he was confined to
his Salt Lake County home with few exceptions, told he couldn’t contact
various people affiliated with the sect, and was made to wear a GPS
monitoring device, the polygamous leader managed to escape federal
authorities, and is yet to be found.
“He used a substance which may have been olive oil
to lubricate the GPS tracking band and slip it off his ankle,” FBI
Special Agent In Charge Eric Barnhart told Fox 13.
Investigators
believe that Jeffs removed his ankle bracelet at some point on June 18,
local media reports, because federal agents were in contact with him
earlier that day but lost contact during the evening hours.
After speaking with Jeff’s neighbours, investigators told The Salt Lake Tribune that witnesses saw “a newer model dark [Ford] Mustang” leave his garage some time during the night.
The next day the FBI issued a warrant for his arrest.
Jeffs’
rather surprising method of escape raised eyebrows, and could make some
wonder whether it’s actually that easy to slip off an ankle monitor.
Investigators
told local media that Jeffs managed to escape without setting off any
alerts because he didn’t damage the monitor as he was taking it off. “It
wasn’t enough to actually sever the fibre-optic connection,” Sandra Yi
Barber, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Salt Lake City Division told local
media.
Others aren’t that surprised that Jeffs escaped. His
brother, Warren Jeffs, was also one the run for months in 2006 before
police caught up with him in Las Vegas, according to The Daily Beast, where they caught him riding in an Escalade filled with disguises such as wigs and sunglasses.
Former FLDS members suspect that Jeffs is holed up in one of his many hiding spots, according to media reports.
“He’s got people that will buy him a house in a heartbeat,” Matt Jeffs, one of Lyle’s sons told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Known
as “the house of hiding network,” which was created around 2004 by
Lyle’s brother Warren Jeff, houses exist all across the country such as
in Idaho, Nevada and Texas.

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