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Monday, April 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Mormon Sect’s Texas Ranch Described as Criminal Nest

ELDORADO, Texas (CN) - Texas asked Wednesday to seize the West Texas ranch where it says Warren Jeffs and members of his polygamist sect sexually assaulted children.

The Texas attorney general's office filed a search-and-seizure warrant in Schleicher County Court for the 1,600-acre property named Yearning for Zion and described in the filings as "the suspected place."

Attached to the warrant is a 91-page affidavit by Marcos Martinez, a peace officer with the attorney general's office. He describes how the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints used proceeds from illegal money laundering to buy the ranch.

Church leaders did so to set up a "remote outpost where they could insulate themselves from criminal prosecution for sexually assaulting children," according to the affidavit.

"Affiant believes that the Priesthood Records, as detailed above, demonstrate probable cause that Warren Steed Jeffs orchestrated the purchase of the suspected place for the purpose of facilitating and perpetrating criminal offenses, including bigamy, sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault," Martinez added. "The suspected place and its improvements provided Jeffs and other FLDS members a secure location where they could obscure the fact that these serious felony crimes were being perpetrated."

FLDS members also used the property to illegally hide Jeffs while he was a fugitive on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List, Martinez says. At the time, Jeffs was evading Utah state charges regarding the illegal marriages of male followers and underage girls.

Though Jeffs had been convicted in 2007 of two counts of first-degree felony rape for his role in the wedding of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin, the convictions were reversed on the basis of erroneous jury instructions.

Jeffs and five of his followers were indicted again in July 2008 in Eldorado County Court on charges of sexual assault and bigamy. He was sentenced in September 2011 to life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two girls he claimed were his "spiritual wives." The 56-year-old is said to still head the polygamous sect from prison.

Three weeks ago, the 10th Circuit ruled the FLDS cannot retain control of a $110 million trust, and that Utah should control the property.

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