On the run from the law for several weeks now, it turns out that Lyle Jeffs—the leader of the Salt Lake City polygamist church, Fundamental LDS—turned to his pantry as a means of escaping police custody. On Tuesday, the FBI revealed that they believe the bishop, accused of orchestrating a massive food stamp fraud scheme, used olive oil to slip out of the GPS ankle monitor he was ordered to wear after being released from prison.
"He used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the GPS tracking band and slip it off his ankle," Eric Barnhart, a special agent with the FBI, told Fox 13. "The damage to the bracelet was not such to trigger the full array of alarms that law enforcement or the U.S. Marshal's Service would have responded to."
Though prosecutors warned that Jeffs was a flight risk, attempting to keep the suspect behind bars, US District Court Judge Ted Stewart ordered his release in June after his trial was delayed. Jeff's was subsequently confined to house arrest and required to wear an ankle monitor at all times, though few could have guessed that olive oil would be his ticket to freedom.
"Checks were done with Mr. Jeffs and at some point, on the 18th, to a satisfactory level the bracelet was still intact where it was supposed to be," Barnhart said. "The evening hours, though, that changed. Attempts were made to contact him to no avail. The next day he was found to be missing."
Jeffs, along with 10 other members of Fundamental LDS, allegedly ordered members of the church to turn over their food stamps to leaders to "do with as they wished." Prosecutors now claim that over $12 million in food stamps changed hands in the scheme.
Although his client remains on the run, Jeffs' defense attorney filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss all charges related to the food stamp scheme under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. According to the motion, FLDS members have every right to turn over their property to the church.
"FLDS members believe a failure to donate their SNAP benefits (which is considered property), would be contrary to the FLDS religion and way of life that would endanger their own salvation," Kathryn Nester, Jeffs' attorney, wrote.
Jeffs is considered armed and dangerous, according to authorities, and quite possibly a bit slippery, too.
[via Fox 13]