Polygamist’s arrest crosses one off FBI’s top 10
Las Vegas ? After more than a year on the run and three months on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, the charismatic leader of a polygamous sect was captured during a routine traffic stop and now faces charges he arranged marriages between underage girls and older men.
Warren Steed Jeffs, 50, was arrested without incident late Monday just outside Las Vegas, the FBI said Tuesday. No weapons were found, but the 2007 red Cadillac Escalade he was riding in was filled with items including three wigs, 15 cell phones, $54,000 in cash and $10,000 in gift cards, authorities said.
Jeffs leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that broke from the Mormon church a century ago. He is said to have at least 40 wives and nearly 60 children.
Church dissidents say that underage marriages – some involving girls as young as 13 – escalated into the hundreds under his leadership, and that he broke apart families by casting out married men and reassigning their women and children to others.
Arizona Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard said Jeffs’ arrest marks “the beginning of the end of … the tyrannical rule of a small group of people over the practically 10,000 followers of the FLDS sect.” He predicted it would lead more people to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
Most of the church’s members live in Hildale, Utah, and adjoining Colorado City, Ariz., but authorities have said they believe Jeffs had “safe houses” in four other states – including Nevada – and Canada.
Jeffs’ vehicle was stopped on Interstate 15 for having a temporary Colorado license tag that wasn’t easily readable, FBI and Nevada Highway Patrol officials said.
Jeffs was being held Tuesday in Clark County jail, awaiting a court hearing Thursday on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
The two people traveling with him, wife Naomi Jeffs and a brother, Isaac Steed Jeffs, both 32, were released and will not be charged, FBI agent Steven Martinez said.