Lyle Jeffs, leader of the polygamy group Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Utah was sentenced to 57 months in a federal prison.
Jeffs was convicted of defrauding the government in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the US food stamp program. He was also nailed for running away from the law during the pretrial in the court.
Federal prosecutors wanted Jeffs to be sentenced to 71 months. But US District Judge Ted Stewart handed Jeff 57 months prison term, followed by three years of probation.
The judge also instructed Jeffs to pay back $1 million to the US Department of Agriculture for the food stamp fraud.
Lyle Jeffs Pleads Guilty & Accepts Responsibility for Food Stamp Fraud
Jeffs, 57, who does not watch TV or listen to modern music agreed to his misdeeds and asked for leniency.
“I acknowledge my mistakes and my decision-making and how it has affected the law,” Jeffs told Judge Stewart. “I humbly accept responsibilities for my actions. As far as my religious beliefs, they are sincere. I don’t intend to compromise that.”
Prosecutors argued that Jeffs and his FLDS followers’ fraud cost taxpayers up to $12 million. But Judge Stewart disagreed, agreeing with Jeff’s defense team that it was about $2 million.
According to prosecutors, Jeffs ordered FLDS members to buy food with SNAP debit cards and then give the items to the church.
They alleged the church members were also pressured to swipe SNAP debit cards at grocery stores owned by the church so that the food could be converted back to cash.
Jeffs Had 9 Wives & About 60 Children
Judge Steward sentenced Jeffs to:
- 45 months in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding SNAP
- 12 months for failure to appear in court during the pretrials
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In June 2016, he took off his ankle monitor and ran away from pretrial. He arrested nearly a year after in South Dakota.
Lyle Jeffs used to have nine wives and up to 60 children. His church beliefs allow him and members of his religious sect to marry as many wives as they want.
Warren Jeffs, FLDS President and Lyle’s brother, is serving a life sentence in Texas for the sexual abuse of two young girls. He’d married them and taken them as his plural wives.