Texas out to seize Warren Jeffs' polygamist ranch

Associated Press Modified: November 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012
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According to the state's affidavit, the ranch is controlled under the name the United Order of Texas, which is described in county filings as a "religious trust created to preserve and advance the religious doctrines and goals of the FLDS."

Online records from the Schleicher County Appraisal District indicate a dozen pieces of property at the ranch's address that are owned by the trust and total 1,691 acres. Combined, the most recent appraised value of the properties is $33.4 million.

Jeffs' most devoted followers consider him God's spokesman on earth and a prophet, but they were absent from court for the bulk of his criminal trial.

Paving the way to Jeffs' conviction were his own "priesthood records" — diary-like volumes, covering tens of thousands of pages, in which Jeffs recounts his sexual encounters and records even his most mundane daily activities.

Prosecutors cite the records in the 91-page affidavit filed Wednesday.

"This will be a major gathering place of the saints that are driven," Jeffs wrote. "You can see it is well isolated. In looking at this location, we can raise crops all year round. There is no building code requirements. We can build as we wish without inspectors coming in. There is a herd of animals that the storehouse needs, that we can nourish and increase."

In the affidavit, prosecutors allege that sect members illegally structured financial transactions and that Jeffs personally toured the ranch before the land was purchased.

To support prosecutors' claims that FLDS leaders financed the property through money laundering, one section in the affidavit lists 175 deposits, almost all of which are just less than $10,000, made at San Angelo banks over the course of two years and staggered by only a few days each. The total is about $1.5 million.

Prosecutors say the series of four-figure deposits — which financial investigators call "structuring" — are typically done to evade federal reporting requirements.

However, the Texas attorney general's office, however, has not formally charged any FLDS members with any financial crimes.

Under Texas law, authorities can seize property that was used to commit or facilitate certain criminal conduct, such as a home being used as a stash house for drugs. Strickland said he didn't immediately know where this attempted seizure would rank among the state's biggest efforts to claim ownership of criminal property.

In the affidavit, prosecutors allege that sect members illegally structured financial transactions and that Jeffs personally toured the ranch before the land was purchased.

Jeffs wanted the "a rural location where the FLDS could operate a polygamist compound where the systemic sexual assault of children would be tolerated without interference from law enforcement authorities," according to the affidavit.

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