Longform

Under Siege

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The UEP trust controls more than $100 million in businesses and real estate in Colorado City, Hildale and Crestone, British Columbia (the site of another FLDS enclave).

Jeffs' control of the trust not only provided him access to the millions of dollars in real estate and property, it gave him legal dictatorial power over FLDS members living on land owned by the UEP. Any FLDS member residing on UEP land who dared to question Jeffs could be legally evicted from his home. With that often came banishment from the community and forfeiture of his wives and children -- not to mention eternal damnation.

As for the lawsuits, one alleges that Jeffs sodomized his nephew when he was a little boy.

Brent Jeffs, now 21, maintains in his July 2004 suit in a Utah state court that Warren Jeffs sodomized him when he was 5 and 6 years old.

Brent Jeffs accuses Warren and two other uncles -- Blaine Jeffs and Leslie Jeffs -- of raping him repeatedly in the basement of Alta Academy, an FLDS school in Salt Lake City where Warren was then principal.

The suit offers a chilling narrative of what allegedly transpired:

"On repeated occasions the Jeffs Brothers would enter the basement room where the children were located, find [Brent Jeffs], and instruct him to come to a nearby lavatory. While in the lavatory, the Jeffs Brothers confronted [Brent] and instructed him to remove his clothes. After [Brent] undressed himself, one or more of the three defendants told him that it was God's will that he submit to them. The Jeffs Brothers would take turns forcing their erect penises into [Brent's] anus.

"Warren Jeffs told [Brent] that these sodomizing activities were a way for [Brent] to become 'a man.' Warren Jeffs admonished [Brent] that it was God's will that [Brent] not tell anyone -- particularly his parents -- about said activities."

In fact, Warren Jeffs said Brent would be cast into hell if he revealed what was going on, the suit contends.

Warren Jeffs, the suit claims, had been committing assaults on young boys since he was 14 years old.

Despite Warren's admonitions, complaints that Warren and his brothers were raping young boys did reach FLDS leaders, including Warren's late father, Rulon Jeffs, FLDS Prophet at the time. The suit says these complaints were ignored, thereby allowing Warren to portray himself to the community as a "chaste" and "honorable" religious leader.

Brent Jeffs, the suit states, decided to break his silence in the aftermath of the January 2002 suicide of his brother, Clayne, who also was sexually assaulted by the three Jeffses.

In the other suit, filed in August 2004 in a Utah state court, more than a dozen young men allege that Warren Jeffs and FLDS leaders forced them to leave town to reduce competition for wives in the polygamist society.

The suit alleges that Jeffs and FLDS leaders reduced the male population in the communities by "systematically expelling young males" from Colorado City and Hildale.

While he was avoiding the lawsuits, Jeffs ordered the transfer of valuable UEP assets to FLDS insiders to shield the land and property from possible monetary judgments, according to pleadings filed by lawyers representing Brent Jeffs and the young men expelled from the enclave.

In September and October 2004, the UEP announced it was selling three-plus acres of land beneath the trust's most valuable business asset, Western Precision Inc., to the FLDS owners of the company for $25,000. The land is worth about $140,000.

A source familiar with the transaction says Jeffs, as the religious leader of Western Precision's owners, would retain control of the land and, for that matter, the entire $3 million company after the transfer.

Western Precision operates a 52,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Hildale that builds state-of-the-art machine tools. It has a wide range of customers, including the Department of Defense, and employs more than 100 workers.

In another September 2004 deal, the UEP transferred 1,311 acres of ranch land a few miles northwest of Colorado City to a company allegedly controlled by FLDS insiders. Once again, no property appeared to have been removed from Jeffs' control, even though the land was sold for a purported $4 million.

The flurry of shady UEP real estate transactions set the stage for a remarkable development when lawyers for Brent Jeffs and the dispossessed young men asked a Utah state court in February to remove the UEP trustees, including Warren Jeffs.

The request meant that the plaintiffs in the two lawsuits were willing to sacrifice their chance to take control of the rich UEP trust. Roger Hoole, a Salt Lake City attorney representing the plaintiffs in the suit, says his clients' main objective is protecting the UEP trust for the benefit of current and former rank-and-file church families.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty