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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Imprisoned Mormon Leader Wants Millions

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Mormons want an $8.8 million judgment against a property trust set aside, claiming it was "based upon false, incomplete, and misleading evidence."

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints et al., including polygamist leader Jeffs, sued trust fiduciary Bruce Wisan, in Federal Court.

Jeffs is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting girls.

Jeffs and his sect claim that the 2007 default judgment entered in state court in Wisan v. Jeffs was "obtained fraudulently."

According to the complaint, the judgment fell "into three categories: (1) $6,467,200 based upon the allegation that the Trust had conveyed real property for less than full value; (2) $2,202,459 based upon the allegation that personal property had been wrongfully removed from the Trust; (3) $1,452,967.67 in attorney's [fees], and $277,836.15 in fiduciary's [fees], fees allegedly incurred by the defendant as a result of the property transfers upon which the judgment was based; and (4) a credit of $1,563,632 representing a portion of the proceeds of [a] settlement agreement."

Wisan, in the 2006 lawsuit, claimed trustees including Jeffs, Truman Barlow, Leroy Jeffs, James Zitting and William Timpson transferred "approximately 1,311 acres of real property located in or near Apple Valley, Utah to an entity known as Aspen Management."

At a hearing in 2007, Wisan said the transfer "was made with the purpose and intent of misappropriating Trust property for the benefit of the Trustees in that the transfer was made to entities controlled by Warren Jeffs and/or the other Trustees for less than reasonably equivalent value," the complaint states.

It adds: "In addition to making claims regarding real property, defendant [Wisan] at the March 1, 2007 hearing, in order to obtain the default judgment, relied upon claims that the Trustee plaintiffs had transferred personal property, including three modular buildings, potato processing equipment, and a grain elevator, from the Trust.

"Defendant knew at the time that the Trust did not own the personal property in question. Indeed, defendant had previously reported to the court that the trust is 'comprised solely of real estate, and that the Trust has no cash, no personal property, no income, and no source of income other than donation;' and he had no evidence that the specific items of personal property were property of the trust.

"The Trust did not in fact own the personal property upon which the defendant relied at the March 1, 2007 hearing.

"Defendant knew that the values placed on the personal property at the March 1, 2007 hearing were vastly and indeed fraudulently inflated."

A state court agreed with Wisan, however, entering an $8.8 million judgment against the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs now claim: "Said judgment was based largely on the transaction involving the Apple Valley property, as well as certain other events involving property which was never established to have belonged to the Reformed Trust."

They claim that Wisan failed to disclose that terms to some of their properties had been released in a settlement agreement and that property including the grain elevator was not held by the trust.

They also claim Wisan misrepresented attorney's and fiduciary's fees, and used the awarded funds to acquire a large farm in southern Utah.

"Defendant has utilized the judgment to acquire, for less than its value, a substantial asset of plaintiff Corporation of the Presiding Bishop. That asset is known as Harker Farms, a large agricultural operation in Beryl, Iron County, Utah," the complaint states.

"The United Effort Plan Trust was formed in 1942 in order to facilitate the living of the Law of Consecration and Stewardship (also known as the United Order of Heaven), which in its present form dates to 1831. A trust agreement was signed because Church members needed a legal relationship to hold their property in common, as instructed by scripture," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs seek an order vacating the judgment, and restitution.

They are represented by Rodney Parker with Snow, Christensen & Martineau.

Here are the plaintiffs: The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Corporation of the President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Warren S. Jeffs, Truman I. Barlow, Leroy S. Jeffs, James K. Zitting, and William E. Timpson.

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