Sect Charged In Food Stamp Fraud Scheme

FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, several top leaders from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect, including Lyle Jeffs, were arrested on federal accusations of food stamp fraud and money laundering — marking one of the biggest blows to the group in years. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Eleven polygamist sect leaders arrested on food stamp fraud and money laundering allegations.

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MSN |SALT LAKE CITY (AP) by Brady McCombs & Lindsay Whitehurst— Investigators say they noticed something strange when they began tracking food stamp transactions coming out of two small convenience stores in a polygamous community on the Arizona-Utah border.   The volume of food stamp purchases was so large that it rivaled big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Costco.

They said they ultimately learned that residents were scanning their food stamp debit cards at the stores but getting no items in return, allowing leaders of the polygamous sect to funnel the money to front companies. The proceeds paid for a John Deere loader, a Ford truck and $17,000 in paper products, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The alleged scheme is at the heart of a major takedown of top leaders of the secretive sect in which followers believe that having multiple wives brings exaltation in heaven.

Eleven people were charged with food stamp fraud and money laundering, including Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs, top-ranking leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and brothers of imprisoned sect leader Warren Jeffs.

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