Former polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs handed five-year prison sentence over fraud and escape

Former polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs handed five year prison sentence over fraud and escape

Jeffs' five-year sentence is the maximum term that can be given

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A former polygamous sect leader has been given a five-year prison sentence for committing a food stamp fraud scheme, then escaping home confinement whilst awaiting trial.

Lyle Jeffs, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was accused of moving around $11 million (£8.2 million) worth of food stamp benefits.

The five-year sentence is the maximum term that can be given, and prosecutors said they wanted to send a message to other sect leaders that corruption is not tolerated. Jeffs has also been instructed to pay back $1 million (£745,000)

In court he said he acknowledged the mistakes he had made and added "I do humbly accept my responsibly for my actions. I don't blame anyone."

The 57-year-old pleaded guilty both to conspiring to commit benefits fraud and failing to appear in court, according to CBS News.

Jeffs' attorney said his food stamp fraud was motivated by his belief system, which maintains that everyone in the communal group should have food to eat.

The lawyer also said that he has lost his job, family and faith as he has now been banned from the Utah-Arizona border sect by his brother.

Jeffs was charged over the matter in 2016, along with 10 others, however several of the others' charges were dismissed and none resulted in jail time.

Jeffs' case became more serious as he took off his ankle tag in June last year and escaped from home, however he was found a year later after members of the public recognised him.

His brother Warren Jeffs is currently serving a life prison sentence for the sexual assault of girls he claimed were his wives.