SALT LAKE CITY -- In a new court filing, the U.S. Attorney's Office contends that Fundamentalist LDS Church leaders' claims that food stamps must be consecrated to the polygamous sect "is about selfish profit and not a sincere religious belief."
The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah filed the motion Thursday, urging a judge to reject defense requests to dismiss the indictment against FLDS Church leader Lyle Jeffs and 10 others accused in the massive food stamp fraud case. The federal government argues that funds were taken from hungry families in the Utah-based church to be given to leaders.
"In at least one instance, the shortages in nutritious food led to severe health issues for children," prosecutors wrote.
Defense attorneys have argued a "religious right" to consecrate property to the FLDS Church, including Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Prosecutors contend SNAP purchases were given to the FLDS Bishop's Storehouse, where it was doled out, and leaders like Lyle Jeffs and John Wayman got "special treatment."
While rank-and-file church members rarely got meats or vegetables, Jeffs had meat with every meal, ex-FLDS members wrote in declarations filed with the motion.
"Jeffs used the Storehouse as his personal bank, using SNAP proceeds to purchase a luxury vehicle and as spending cash," prosecutors wrote in the motion.
It's the latest in a flurry of federal filings seeking to keep the case moving as the defense prepares to mount a case of First Amendment religious freedom. The trial is set to begin in October.
Lyle Jeffs is currently a fugitive after escaping from home confinement. The FBI told FOX 13 it believes he used olive oil to slip out of a GPS monitoring device. His brother, Seth Jeffs, and FLDS bishop John Wayman were recently re-arrested when federal prosecutors say they met to discuss having church members "re-baptized," under orders from imprisoned church leader Warren Jeffs.
Warren Jeffs is serving life in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage marriages.
Read the filing here: