Polygamist Mormon sect leader Lyle Jeffs has been captured in South Dakota after being on the run for nearly a year.
Federal Bureau of Investigation officials tweeted Wednesday night that Jeffs had been captured in South Dakota where the FLDS church has a small compound.
According to the FBI'swanted poster, Jeffs was on home confinement while awaiting trial over his alleged involvement in a food stamp fraud case when he escaped.
In February 2016, Jeffs, 57, and 10 leaders and members of the renegade sect, which embraces practices that have been renounced by the Mormon Church, were indicted on felony counts involving money laundering and a scheme to divert millions of dollars in food-stamp transactions. Lyle Jeffs is the brother of Warren Jeffs who is in prison for sexual crimes related to underage girls he called his "spiritual wives".
The events leading to Jeffs' capture Wednesday in a lakeside area near the South Dakota-Nebraska state line where he was living out of his truck started a day earlier when a pawn shop owner called police about a man who had come to his shop twice acting nervous and fidgety.
Huber said Jeffs' flight "will play a significant part in the prosecution".
The FBI had been looking for him since June 2016 when he escaped from house confinement in Utah after slipping off his Global Positioning System ankle monitor.
FILE - This undated photo provided by the FBI Salt Lake City Division shows Lyle Jeffs. Jeffs, he said, handed over his actual ID and filled out the form to complete the deal.
"Our working theory was that he probably had less support than his brother had when his brother fled a number of years ago", Barnhart said. They say food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return.
Jeffs was scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Thursday in Sioux Falls and was expected to be returned to Utah in the coming days to face the pending food stamp fraud charges, said Jeffs' attorney, Kathryn Nester.
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"This indictment is not about religion; this indictment is about fraud", U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said at the time.
"It's a serious offense to flee justice and we do not take it lightly".
A former member of Jeffs' sect, Ross Chatwin, reacted to the news of Lyle's arrest to our sister station in Salt Lake City, KSL.
The group also has a small compound in far west South Dakota that was established more than a decade ago.
Nine of the people arrested alongside Lyle Jeffs have since accepted plea deals, and one person had his charges dismissed.
Federal prosecutors will be under pressure from critics of the sect who believe federal prosecutors went too easy on the other defendants, many of whom did not serve jail time.
"The money from the alleged scheme, prosecutors say, helped finance the purchase of paper products, a tractor and a truck - all of which are ineligible under SNAP rules".
"Members of the hierarchy feel that they are untouchable because of what they did with the rest of them", Brower said. If Jeffs had tried to forcibly remove the tracker in a different way, authorities would have been alerted more quickly.
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