Fugitive Sect Leader Lyle Jeffs Demands Feds Drop Welfare Fraud Charges

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on July 19, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Some people answer to the law of the land and some answer only to their religion. This is essentially the legal argument of Lyle Jeffs, the interim leader of a polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church). He is charged with welfare fraud and is a wanted fugitive. Despite this, his lawyers are demanding that charges against him be dropped after Jeffs recently slipped out of his GPS monitor while on supervised release.

Lyle Jeffs, brother of Warren Jeffs who is in prison for his relations with underage girls, is arguing that members of his sect endanger their chances of salvation when they do not pool their welfare benefits. As such, he argues, he should not be charged with a $12 million food stamps benefit fraud scheme.

The Scheme

Lyle Jeffs is part of a sect that on some level opposes the government and will not answer to it but on another accepts welfare benefits. The sect's workaround for any moral compromises presented by accepting government money for food for its members is by taking the money away from individuals. The sect pools the funds of all member recipients and uses that money for the communal good, it says.

The federal government argues that Jeffs and other sect leaders defrauded the public by diverting millions of dollars in welfare funds from intended recipients, the families who receive money based on number of children, their income, and other factors. Authorities allege that the sect used money meant for food to buy machinery, such as tractors, and other goods.


Lyle Jeffs slipped out of the reach of authorities after he was released pending resolution of his charges. The judge that allowed Jeffs out of custody noted that other sect members had not thus far violated conditions of release, justifying letting the leader out on these grounds. It is reported that Lyle Jeffs used olive oil to slip his GPS monitor shortly after having been granted the privilege of supervised release. Authorities have not yet responded to his legal filing in Utah's federal court.

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