Wanted: Armed and Dangerous

As the FBI chases polygamist Prophet Warren Jeffs, work continues 24/7 on his religion's foreboding new Texas capital

"There's 100,000 of them in Paris alone," he said, grinning over a breakfast of steak and eggs.

Blackmore's 2002 excommunication created deep divisions in the Canadian FLDS community. About 600 of the 1,000 fundamentalists in Canada sided with Blackmore, while the rest have stayed loyal to Warren Jeffs.

Blackmore has become a vocal critic of Jeffs' leadership, occasionally lambasting Jeffs and those loyal to him in the rival group's newsletter, The North Star Chronicles.

The YFZ property in Texas is hard to get into and out of.
John Dougherty
The YFZ property in Texas is hard to get into and out of.
Robert Richter quit the FLDS because of "secret projects."
Mark Folkerson
Robert Richter quit the FLDS because of "secret projects."

Blackmore says the Prophet is ruining the towns of Colorado City and Hildale by diverting countless millions of dollars to building the Texas compound.

He blames Jeffs for dividing families against each other and for stripping hundreds of women and children from their husbands and reassigning them to other men.

He says Warren Jeffs could have warded off the police investigation that led to his indictment if he would have simply stopped performing marriages of underage girls. All Jeffs had to do was wait until the girls were 18, Blackmore says, and the authorities never would have seen fit to step in.

"I don't know why this guy feels so duty-bound to defy a simple little rule," Blackmore says.

He says he has received personal assurances from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff that Utah has no intention of prosecuting polygamist families if no spiritual marriages of underage girls are involved.

"Shurtleff said to me, 'I guarantee we wouldn't be having this conversation about polygamy if somebody in the organization would stand up and say, "They must be 18,"'" Blackmore says.

Arizona has taken a similar stance in its handling of polygamist families. Arizona Attorney General Goddard says the state is focused on child abuse within the fundamentalist Mormon community, not on breaking up existing polygamist families.

Blackmore says underage marriages were uncommon during Rulon Jeffs' leadership. After Utah passed a law making it a felony for a man to marry a minor 10 years his junior, Blackmore says, Rulon Jeffs told the FLDS congregation that the church would go along. That was in 1998.

"Rulon specifically told me we are going to obey this law," Blackmore says.

But during the same church meeting, Warren Jeffs and several of his most ardent supporters rejected Rulon Jeffs' decree.

The dissidents, Blackmore says, claimed that the "devil" was speaking through the elderly prophet.

Blackmore says Warren Jeffs told the congregation at the time: "The government is not going to direct the prophet!"

Warren, Blackmore says, expects to be worshiped and demands that his followers deal harshly with any family member who does not do so.

"The Warren faithful have abandoned their family members who do not hail him as their God," Blackmore wrote in the September 2005 issue of The North Star Chronicles. "It is truly a strange day and time."

The arrest of Warren Jeffs' brother, Seth, is a significant break for law enforcement, as well as a huge embarrassment for the FLDS. But it is unlikely to stem the flow of money necessary to continue construction of the Texas compound and to keep Prophet Warren Jeffs in hiding.

Not only does Jeffs have the unwavering support of thousands of FLDS members, he also leads a group that has mastered tapping the public till. FLDS polygamists have been diverting millions of dollars of public assets into church coffers for decades, and that well-honed practice has continued largely unabated even though criminal investigations have been under way for more than two years.

One way this is accomplished is by having Colorado City employees do FLDS-related work while on the public payroll.

Robert Richter says he spent six months between August 2004 and April 2005 working on three different projects for the FLDS while supposedly employed by the Colorado City public works department.

"I was a city employee while working on secret projects for Warren," he says.

It was during this period that Richter says he was working on the thermostat controls for what he believes is the crematory at the Texas temple.

Richter says he also helped design and install scrambling devices for about 50 two-way radios so that outsiders could not eavesdrop on communications. The radios were sent to YFZ.

In the biggest FLDS project in which he participated while on the town payroll, Richter says he helped refurbish and install computerized control equipment on two 500-kilowatt, diesel-powered electrical generators owned by the town's electric utility.

Richter says he was told by his superiors that the generators needed to be refurbished so that they would work with power service at the Texas ranch. Two other Colorado City public employees joined him on the project.

Once the generators were overhauled, Richter says, the utility conducted a fraudulent public auction. Before the auction, he says, he was instructed to disassemble the computer controls to give the appearance that the generators needed substantial work.

The ploy worked.

Richter says potential buyers from a non-FLDS polygamist sect in nearby Centennial Park considered bidding on the generators but were discouraged when they saw what appeared to be "dilapidated" equipment. They did not know "that we had already updated them with computer technology," he says.

The generators and computer controls, which are easily worth tens of thousands of dollars, were purchased by FLDS members for an unknown price, he says.

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