FLDS land auctioned; Justice Dept. claims taxpayer money given to polygamous church
HURRICANE, Utah — Hundreds of acres of land in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah; and Colorado City, Ariz., was auctioned as part of a long-running court battle involving followers of Warren Jeffs.
The auction included a dairy, a fire station, a meatpacking plant, orchards and homes. Bidders were initially kind of shy, but warmed up and spent $1.2 million.
Auctioneer Aaron Shelton told FOX 13 all but seven properties were sold. Guy Timpson, a former FLDS member, was not happy with the auction.
“To see it destroyed in the manner it is, is very disheartening,” he said after the auction.
The auction is to pay back debts owed to the court-appointed accountant of the United Effort Plan Trust, the FLDS Church’s real-estate holdings arm that was taken over by a judge in 2005 amid allegations that Jeffs and other top leaders mismanaged it.
“It must be a pretty difficult job to manage the trust,” Shelton said. “There’s a need for them to generate some income from the trust, their objective is to minimize the footprints of the property they manage, they’ve got a lot of taxes that have to be paid and ultimately they’d like to give them back to the people inside and outside of the community.”
As the court-controlled UEP Trust has moved to pay taxes and debts, FLDS faithful have apparently been preparing to abandon the land. FOX 13 reported last year that a mysterious “tent city” was being set up where it is believed people who will be evicted from the land will live.
FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.” He is reportedly still in charge of the polygamous church, sending out edicts from his cell.
Justice Dept. alleges millions taken from water utility and given to FLDS Church
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department alleges more than $1.7 million in taxpayer money has been diverted from the towns’ water utility and funneled to the FLDS Church for more than a decade.
The allegations were made in a report by an accountant hired by the U.S. Justice Department. The report is part of a series of filings in a Justice Dept. lawsuit against Hildale and Colorado City, accusing the towns of discriminating against people who are not FLDS members.
They accuse officials from Twin City Water Works of improperly diverting funds to FLDS members, businesses and suppliers to the polygamous church’s ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
“Furthermore, had the funds not been diverted, TCWW would presently have substantial financial resources (retained earnings) for many operational activities including providing water to non-FLDS member residents in the Twin Cities,” wrote Mark LoManto.
Read the report here:
The report is being used in a case in Salt Lake City, where lawyers for the UEP Trust are asking a judge to put Twin City Water Works in receivership.
Attorneys for Hildale sought to have the accountant’s testimony excluded, arguing that it is irrelevant to the case at hand.
“It is irrelevant and unhelpful because it does not provide any opinions or analysis about any of the Defendants in this case, but instead is entirely focused on a separate entity, TCWW. It is unreliable because Mr. LoManto relies on inadequate facts and data as the basis for his opinions, and because he uses poor methodology consisting of broad assumptions and a disregard of contrary facts,” wrote Blake Hamilton.
A federal judge has yet to rule if the testimony is relevant in the case.