KINGMAN – A Utah judge granted a preliminary injunction inhibiting the removal of property from land belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ financial arm in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City.
Judge Denise Lindberg made the ruling on Wednesday following testimony from eye witnesses who saw residents of the polygamous border towns dismantling and removing buildings, farm equipment and other property belonging to the United Effort Plan Trust.
Mohave County Special Investigator Gary Engels said he thinks the injunction might help stem the blatant destruction and theft of property belonging to the trust.
“They usually do it with a Saturday morning work crew and work somewhere dismantling stuff,” he said on Thursday. “It could be 40 or 50 men at one time.”
The FLDS church established the UEP trust to control ownership of all assets in the dual communities of approximately 5,000 people.
A Utah court seized the trust estimated to be worth $100 million in May, and the state of Arizona took control of the Colorado City School District and its finances.
In contrast with the dismantling in Arizona and Utah, the church appears to be nearing completion at a compound in Eldorado, Texas.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said the temple appears to be finished, but church officials are keeping quiet on the project.
Engels has been assigned to investigate ownership of a grain elevator that was dismantled in early January. He said he has also seen a 22,000-square foot building dismantled and removed as well as various farming buildings and equipment.
“I think some of the farm tractors are down in Texas,” he said.
An excommunicated member of the FLDS testified watching the dismantling of a grain elevator system last month and provided photographs as evidence in court Wednesday. Isaac Wyler said the community has increased its dismantling activities since the courts took control of the trust.
A short while later, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was charged in Mohave County with crimes related to arranging child-bride marriages. Jeffs is a fugitive who has been on the lam for more than a year. Two civil lawsuits also name Jeffs and the UEP as targets for unspecified monetary damages.
“I don’t think he’s been back at any present time … several months or a year or better,” Engels said.
Last month, the FBI announced a $50,000 reward for Jeffs’ arrest, adding to the $10,000 bounty already offered by Utah and Arizona.