A Mormon polygamist leader in Utah has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in what federal authorities have called the nation’s biggest case of food stamp fraud.
Lyle Jeffs, who was a bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), is accused of telling FLDS members to take the food stamps and then give them to church leaders, who allegedly sold some of the food and used the proceeds to buy luxury goods. During the trial, FLDS leaders argued that their religious beliefs compelled them to collect food in a central place and parcel it out to members. A federal court was not swayed by the argument.
As a part of his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart ordered Jeffs to pay $1 million in restitution and serve probation for three years.