May 24, 2014

Is there a secret group inside the secretive FLDS Church?

May 9, 2014
Ben Winslow

SALT LAKE CITY — A court filing obtained by FOX 13 News reveals the U.S. Justice Department is investigating a “new, exclusive FLDS group” within the polygamous church.

The Justice Department made reference to the “FLDS Church’s new ‘United Order’” in a motion asking a federal judge to compel Hildale and Colorado City town employees to answer questions in depositions. The federal government is suing the Utah-Arizona border towns, accusing them of discriminating against people who are not members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

“Defendants’ employees also refused to answer relevant questions regarding the FLDS Church’s new ‘United Order.’ Based on information and belief, the ‘United Order’ is a new exclusive FLDS group whose membership is determined by FLDS leadership,” the filing states.

“FLDS members not approved into the United Order are asked to leave their families and repent in hope that FLDS leadership will eventually choose them for the United Order; United Order members are expected to consecrate all their property over to the FLDS Church. Membership status therefore is relevant to show, among other things, motives of government officials to appease FLDS leadership.”

Read the Justice Department’s filing here

The Justice Department’s claims of a new “United Order” sound similar to what exists already under the FLDS Church’s United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust. In 2005, the Utah Attorney General’s Office petitioned the courts to take control of the trust and its $110 million in assets amid allegations that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs mismanaged it.

Jeffs is currently serving a life plus 20-year sentence in a Texas prison for sex crimes related to underage marriages.

Claims of a secret society within the already secretive FLDS Church came as little surprise to Rebecca Musser, an ex-member who was the 19th wife of Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon.

“I think we can expect any kind of shift in property, any kind of new organization that’s going to give them the ability to hide more from the law,” she told FOX 13 News on Friday.

Musser said both Utah and Arizona authorities have not done enough to stop the bleeding of the trust, and the crackdown of crimes in the communities.

“I think the state of Utah has turned a blind eye for a long time to known crimes that are going on,” she said. “They have let the FLDS people find those loopholes and exploit them.”

In a statement to FOX 13 News, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office said it was looking into the claims of a new “united order” and whether any UEP assets were being siphoned away.

“The attorney general’s office is in constant communication with the courts and Justice Department and is working towards solutions in the UEP Trust and additional issues,” wrote Utah Attorney General’s spokeswoman Missy Larsen.

Jeffrey L. Shields, an attorney for the court-appointed fiduciary of the UEP Trust, told FOX 13 News he had heard rumblings of a new united order, but the Justice Department filing was the first he had seen anything about it.

“We've heard of it, and we've heard there may be different united orders in different states,” he said.

Shields noted that most of the UEP assets in Hildale and Colorado City are in real-estate, but did express concerns that other material property belonging to the trust could be spirited away.

“There’s kind of an abandoning of the old trust and the starting of new ones in different states,” Shields said.

Jeff Matura, an attorney representing Colorado City in the Justice Department’s lawsuit, declined to comment. Blake Hamilton, an attorney for Hildale, did not return messages seeking comment.

In an order issued out of a Phoenix courtroom in March, U.S. District Court Judge Russel Holland ordered Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred, Vice-Mayor Kimball Barlow, and Town Marshal Helaman Barlow to answer questions in their depositions with federal attorneys.

Read the judge’s order here

Allred may also be asked about allegations he married an underage girl, according to the filing. The Justice Department has scheduled more depositions in St. George and Salt Lake City throughout the month.