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The FBI Has Captured A Polygamous Church Leader Who Was On The Run For Nearly A Year

Lyle Jeffs fled from his Salt Lake City home in June 2016. The FBI believes he may have used olive oil to remove his ankle monitor.

Last updated on June 15, 2017, at 1:39 p.m. ET

Posted on June 15, 2017, at 10:23 a.m. ET


The FBI announced on Thursday that agents have captured a top leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), who went missing in June 2016 and had been on the run for nearly a year.

Lyle Jeffs was captured in South Dakota around 8:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday night, the FBI said in a tweet.

He was captured after the FBI received a tip from a member of the public on June 13. The tipster was able to provide details about Jeffs's vehicle, including model, make, color and plate number, the FBI said in a press conference.

Jeffs was arrested in his vehicle, the FBI said, adding that the fugitive was living out of his car and was in the South Dakota area for at least two weeks. He is being held with no bond at Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls in South Dakota.

Jeffs fled from his Salt Lake City home — where he was under house arrest — on June 19 of last year while awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case.

During Thursday's press conference a US Attorney said Jeffs will likely face additional charges.

"Undoubtedly the flight from prosecution and his fugitive status will play a significant part in the upcoming prosecution," the US Attorney said.

Prosecutors argued that he was a flight risk and shouldn't be released from custody, but a judge let him go on the basis that the other 10 defendants in the food stamp fraud case, who had already been released, had complied with court orders.

Last year, the FBI said authorities checked on Jeffs on June 18, 2016 and that his ankle monitor was "still intact where it was supposed to be." The next day he went missing.

An FBI spokesperson told BuzzFeed News at the time that Jeffs had reportedly "used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the GPS tracking bank and slip it off his ankle."

Jeffs is a bishop in the FLDS, an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church that still practices what it calls "plural marriage" — a doctrine which allows a man to marry multiple women. The mainstream Mormon church, officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, disavowed the practice in 1890.

Lyle Jeffs is the younger brother of Warren Jeffs, who himself spent a year on the run after being charged with sex crimes. He was captured in 2006.

After Warren Jeffs was convicted of sexually assaulting two girls and sentenced to life in prison in 2011, Lyle Jeffs assumed day-to-day control of the FLDS church.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.