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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Utah Steps Into Polygamous Sect’s Fray

ST. GEORGE, Utah (CN) - Utah has plunged into the fray in which a fundamentalist, polygamous sect is accused of draining $1.7 million from a water company to pay sect members' bills, and asked a court to dissolve the water company.

Utah sued Twin City Water Works on March 16 in Washington County Court.

Twin City Water Works (TCWW), launched as a nonprofit community water system in 1972, allegedly agreed to provide bulk water to Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., in 1996.

Attorney General Sean Reyes, who filed the lawsuit, says, "agreements state that TCWW has the right to pump well water on land owned by the United Effort Plan Trust (UEP) pursuant to unrecorded leases between the UEP Trust and TCWW." However, Reyes adds: "No valid lease between the UEP Trust and TCWW that would grant TCWW the right to pump well water on UEP Trust property exists."

TCWW pumped water from wells nonetheless, Reyes says, and sold the water to the twin cities, without paying UEP for the water.

UEP separately sued TWCC last week, in Salt Lake County, calling the allegedly diverted $1.7 million a "slush fund" for the sect.

Utah took over the $110 million UEP trust in 2005, amid underage rape charges against now-incarcerated fundamentalist leader Warren Jeffs.

Members of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began fighting for the trust - which includes more than 700 houses, farms, dairies and other businesses in the twin cities - in 2008.

The trust claimed in its lawsuits that recent depositions show that TCWW managers are "completely unaware" of how the company is run, "strengthening the trust's concerns that the business and its funds are still being used as an FLDS slush fund."

Trust fiduciary Bruce Wisan, charged with overseeing and administering UEP assets, said TCWW has not maintained a physical address or contacted the trust during his time as fiduciary.

"Instead, TCWW has concealed from the fiduciary and the public that taking of funds it earned from selling trust water to the cities and diverting those funds to FLDS purposes and/or for improper personal uses of TCWW's management," Wisan claimed.

TCWW's former president Joseph Allred, in an April 23, 2006 letter to Jeffs, said FLDS members' home utility and cell phone bills, cars, and car insurance were paid for by TCWW.

The letter, which begins, "My Dear Holy Prophet Uncle Warren," was included in Wisan's lawsuit.

Reyes cited those allegations in the state's lawsuit.

"TCWW's taking of water from UEP Trust land without compensating the UEP Trust and without a valid lease or permission from the UEP Trust is unlawful," the 6-page complaint states.

"According to an expert report prepared for the United States in a civil rights lawsuit against the twin cities, United States v. Colorado City, TCWW has diverted $1.7 million in funds collected from the cities and used the funds for non-TCWW business-related purposes."

Reyes said the water system is "in very poor condition, and it appears that little revenue, if any, has been used for the maintenance, expansion, or development of the TCWW water delivery system."

He added: "The president of TCWW admitted that he does not know anything about the company and does not really do anything as president."

Colorado City and Hildale have long been a haven for FLDS members, a polygamous breakaway sect.

The Department of Justice in 2012 claimed the sect controlled the area's police force and ostracized nonmembers.

The Justice Department recently added that the towns' police altered official reports and destroyed dispatch recordings.

Jeffs, 59, was convicted in Utah in 2007 of two counts of first-degree felony rape for his role in the 2001 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 received a life sentence plus 20 years in Texas for sexually assaulting two girls he claimed were his "spiritual wives." He is said to still head the polygamous sect from prison.

Utah seeks an injunction and an order dissolving TWCC.

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