Fugitive Polygamist Sect Leader Arrested In South Dakota
Lyle Jeffs Was Arrested Wednesday Night At A Marina Near Yankton
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Lyle Jeffs, an FBI Most Wanted polygamous sect leader, was arrested in Yankton Wednesday night.
Jeffs escaped home confinement in 2016 while awaiting a trial on an alleged food stamp fraud scheme in Utah.
Eric Barnhart, FBI Secret Agent in Charge in Salt Lake City, UT, said assistance from the public helped them dial in their search.
“We received a tip from the public on June 13 on someone matching his description,” said Barnhart.
Authorities said an off-duty detective with the Yankton Police Department spotted a Ford pick-up truck with Utah plates they were looking for.
“Down near the marina near Yankton and he saw that vehicle, called in for back-up, back-up arrived and a felony car stop was conducted and Mr. Jeffs was taken into custody,” said Barnhart.
Yankton County authorities said Jeffs was using the restroom at the marina before he was pulled over.
Barnhart had high praise for the department’s help with catching Jeffs.
“We want to thank the Yankton Police Department, the very best of law enforcement. They dropped everything. A colleague in need, which was us, needed assistance, and they dropped everything that they did and without their assistance, we would not have had a successful conclusion,” said Barnhart.
Jeffs’ sect, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has a compound in Pringle, South Dakota.
Barnhart said the FBI believes Jeffs was cut off from the group and was living out of his car.
Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber said it was a matter of time before they found Jeffs.
“When you flee a federal indictment, the long of the arm will eventually catch up to you,” said Huber.
Jeffs was granted release from jail last June despite Utah prosecutors arguing he’d be a flight risk.
“I do not anticipate Mr. Jeffs will be afforded this privilege again,” said Huber.
Jeffs’ brother, Warren, was considered the highest leader of the sect.
He was convicted of multiple sexual abuse charges nearly a decade ago and is serving a life sentence in Texas.
A former member of Jeffs’ sect, Ross Chatwin, reacted to the news of Lyle’s arrest to our sister station in Salt Lake City, KSL.
“I’m happy that it’s coming to a conclusion now that he, like Warren, will begin to stop hurting people. I believe Lyle was just as bad if not worse than Warren was about destroying people’s lives,” said Chatwin.
Jeffs waived his right for an identity and detention hearing in South Dakota, putting him in custody with the U.S. Marshals until he returns to Utah.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah told KDLT News they expect Jeffs to return to the state in “a couple weeks.”
Ten others were charged alongside Jeffs in the food stamp fraud scheme back in February 2016.
Nine of them accepted plea deals and one had his charges dismissed.