Authorities Swarm Polygamists

State and federal law enforcement launches a multifaceted campaign against fugitive fundamentalist Mormon Prophet Warren Jeffs and his followers

"I don't know what's going to happen," Zitting says, but if FLDS leaders order people to move, "a high percentage" would.

Helping fuel speculation of a mass exodus is the fact that a number of prominent men in the community have disappeared in the past couple of months.

Among the most notable absences is Richard Allred, who suddenly resigned as Colorado City mayor in February. His son, Joseph Allred, also resigned his position as Colorado City town clerk. Joseph Allred has not been seen in town since December, while Richard Allred has been gone for more than a month, local residents say.

Wherever Warren Jeffs is, nobody's talking. Yet.
Mark Poutenis
Wherever Warren Jeffs is, nobody's talking. Yet.
AZ POST chief Thomas Hammarstrom says Colorado City cops must follow civil law or face removal.
courtesy of AZ POST
AZ POST chief Thomas Hammarstrom says Colorado City cops must follow civil law or face removal.

Warren Jeffs has been moving key followers to other FLDS properties scattered across the West. In the past three years, Jeffs followers have purchased land and are erecting new compounds in Eldorado, Texas; Mancos, Colorado; and, in the most recently discovered outpost, Pringle, South Dakota. The sect also has control of a large farm near Pioche, Nevada, and holdings in Bountiful, British Columbia.

Historian Bistline predicts that Jeffs will select about 2,500 FLDS members and order them to leave Colorado City-Hildale and relocate to church property elsewhere. The rest of the FLDS members would remain in the towns and be forced to make a difficult choice: Pay property taxes and remain in their homes, or remain loyal to Jeffs and risk eviction by refusing to pay the taxes.

"I think a lot of [FLDS members] are fed up with this, and if push comes to shove, they will pay," Bistline says.

The pushing and shoving over property taxes and the right to stay in their homes is about to escalate into a wrestling match between Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan and FLDS counselor Lyle Jeffs.

Wisan was appointed as special fiduciary by a Utah state court last summer to oversee $111 million in assets controlled by the United Effort Plan trust. The UEP trust was created by the FLDS leaders to own all the property and structures in Colorado City and Hildale. Warren Jeffs and his top aides were stripped of control of the trust last summer after Jeffs refused to defend himself in three civil suits filed against him in Salt Lake City.

Despite removal as a trustee and becoming a fugitive, Jeffs continues to exert control over the FLDS members living on UEP land. Last fall, he ordered FLDS members to refuse to pay Washington County and Mohave County property taxes. Only a handful of residents -- all former FLDS members -- have paid the taxes on their homes.

Wisan has since held several town meetings and has sent written notices to FLDS members warning that if they refuse to pay their property taxes, eviction proceedings will be initiated. Wisan has now escalated the warnings by seeking immediate payment from Lyle Jeffs.

"We want to get him evicted, or get him to pay the taxes," Wisan says. "This will clearly send a message."

If Lyle Jeffs pays the property taxes -- which is considered unlikely -- it would signify a major break with Warren Jeffs and would be a clear signal that the FLDS prophet is losing his grip on the community.

The more likely scenario is that Lyle Jeffs will simply abandon the house and move to another location. The third alternative would be for Lyle Jeffs to refuse to pay the property taxes and refuse to abide by the eviction order and leave the property.

Wisan would then be forced to rely on the Colorado City Marshal's Office to enforce the order. The local cops have in the past shown that their allegiance is to Warren Jeffs and the FLDS, making it questionable whether they would cooperate with Wisan.

The local cops' refusal to enforce laws that are not in synch with FLDS mandates has triggered several investigations by Utah and Arizona police-certification agencies. Three Colorado City policemen already have been stripped of their certifications, and the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is considering decertifying more local officers.

In an effort to quell the rebellion by Colorado City police -- which, in essence, has become an FLDS militia -- AZ POST executive director Thomas Hammarstrom says he warned the officers in a March 21 letter that they must enforce the law without regard to religious obligations and requirements, particularly when it comes to issues involving UEP property.

"I delivered that letter personally and read it aloud so there was no question about what was in it," Hammarstrom tells me.

As Wisan gears up for his clash with FLDS leadership, federal authorities confirmed the arrests of James Allred and Mica Barlow.

U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said both men were arrested on Friday, April 7, on civil contempt-of-court charges issued by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton.

The arrests indicate that a federal grand jury investigation may be under way and that the men were charged after they refused to testify.

They apparently were following the orders of Warren Jeffs, who (referring to outside law enforcement) admonished his followers: "Tell them nothing."

Allred, who works as a postal clerk at the Colorado City-Hildale post office, reportedly told another postal worker that he expected to be held for up to 18 months.

"The entire town is buzzing with news of the arrests," says Isaac Wyler, a lifelong Colorado City resident and former FLDS member.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets