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Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs captured after a year on the run

16 June 2017

Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City in January 2015.

Jeffs, another brother, Seth, and other conspirators were accused of defrauding the government of more than $12 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - more commonly known as food stamps.

Jeffs fled from his Salt Lake City home - where he was under house arrest - on June 19 of previous year while awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case.

In July 2016, Jeffs, the brother of notorious FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, escaped custody after using olive oil to slip a Global Positioning System tracking bracelet off of his ankle.

South Dakota authorities discovered Lyle Jeffs Wednesday evening near Yankton. Lyle Jeffs is the brother of Warren Jeffs who is in prison for sexual crimes related to underage girls he called his "spiritual wives". Authorities believe he had been in that area for the last two weeks.

So far the Federal Bureau of Investigation has offered few details on Jeffs' capture, though the representative said at the press conference on Thursday that "it's a great story".

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The FLDS is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than a century ago. He says he provided officers with store video and pawn paperwork. Known to the faithful as "R23", the compound sits along a gravel road, secluded by tall pine trees, a privacy fence and a guard tower.

"I can't stress enough the public is instrumental in these sort of things", said Eric Barnhart, the FBI's Agent in Charge in Salt Lake City.

Several top FLDS leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, are arrested and charged with food stamp fraud and money laundering.

"He used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the Global Positioning System tracking band and slip it off his ankle", FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart told a Fox affiliate at the time.

"When you flee a federal indictment, the long of the arm will eventually catch up to you", said U.S. Attorney of Utah, John Huber. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

FILE - This Feb. 23, 2016, booking file photo released by the Davis County, Utah Jail shows Lyle Jeffs.

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Jeffs was granted release from jail last June despite Utah prosecutors arguing he'd be a flight risk.

Overall, nine people accepted plea deals.

Jeffs and the other defendants claimed that they were sharing food and that it was a facet of their communal living.

What tipped the employee was that when asked to give his name, Jeffs provided his last name as his first name, going by Jeffs Lyle Steed. "They feel god protected them".

Nord reported from Pierre, South Dakota.

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