ST. GEORGE, Utah – Six additional members of a polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona border took plea deals Wednesday to avoid jail time in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud.
The six pleaded guilty to fraud Wednesday in St. George, Utah, in which only the fugitive leader Lyle Jeffs, and two others with charges still pending in the case filed in February against 11 persons. They were up to 25 years in prison.
The prosecutors accused them of all to take part in a scheme to misuse $12 million in food stamps, although the defense lawyers argued they were following religious beliefs, by the donation of benefits to their church.
Southern Utah came after hearing of the senior leaders of Seth Jeffs and John Wayman pleaded guilty in Salt Lake City and were released from prison after six months.
As Seth Jeffs and Wayman, the six will not be required to pay any restitution as part of their offers, the Spectrum newspaper in St. George reported (http://bit.ly/2hU4vMR).
Federal prosecutor Robert Lund said the plea offers to lay a foundation for the future prosecution for similar crimes, while the defendants will be rehabilitated. They all need a class on the proper use of food stamps.
Lawyer Aric Cramer called the matter of religious persecution that would never have been filed.
“It is just like Vietnam – the government declared victory and got out, and everyone benefited,” Cramer said. “So I think (the plea agreement) is a wonderful deal.”
The six, that the offers worked in various roles, the management of the two shops where the prosecutors say the fraudulent transactions have taken place or the community warehouse, where food bought by food stamps was brought, leaders decide how to distribute it.
They were: Kimball Dee Barlow, 52; Crystal Dutson, 55; Winford Johnson Barlow, 51; Rulon Mormon Barlow, 46; Ruth Peine Barlow, 42: and Hyrum Bygnal Dutson, who turns 61 this month.
Lyle Jeffs, the accused leader of the scheme, remains on the run. He escaped home incarceration this summer, and it is not found. He is the brother of Warren Jeffs, the sect leader serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered wives.
Known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the group believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven, the legacy of the early Mormon church. The mainstream Mormon church abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today.
Information from: The Spectrum, http://www.thespectrum.com