May 27, 2006 7:10 pm US/Mountain
New Lawsuit Filed Against Warren Jeffs
SALT LAKE CITY
A court-appointed accountant in charge of the financial trust of a southern-Utah polygamist sect has filed a lawsuit accusing the church�s leader of fleecing trust assets.
Bruce Wisan filed the lawsuit Friday in Salt Lake City�s 3rd District Court.
Warren Jeffs, the fugitive leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and former trustees Truman Barlow, Leroy Jeffs, James Zitting, William Jessop, the Corporation of the President and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Fundamentalist LDS Church are named as defendants.
�We feel that they�ve taken things from the trust. Their actions have caused harm to the trust,� Wisan said. �We want to pursue remedies for the actions that they�ve taken.�
The United Effort Plan was established by church leaders in the 1940s, with members donating assets for the benefit of the community. The trust holds an estimated $100 million in assets, most of it property, homes and other buildings in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, where most FLDS church members make their homes. The trust also has property in Bountiful, British Columbia, where the FLDS also has an enclave.
Jeffs and his followers also hold property in Mancos, Colo., Pringle, S.D. and Eldorado, Texas _ where the church has constructed a temple _ although it remains unclear if trust funds were used to purchase or improve them. It is possible, however, that some trust assets which have disappeared from Colorado City and Hildale in recent months may have been relocated to those properties.
Should Wisan prevail in the lawsuit, he could seek to recover any lost assets.
A Utah judge gave Wisan control of the trust in June 2005, after Jeffs and five other men were removed as trustees for allegedly mishandling its assets, including liquidating some properties to keep Jeffs in hiding.
Jeffs is wanted on criminal charges of child sexual abuse in Arizona for allegedly arranging underage marriages. In Utah, Jeffs is wanted on felony charges of being an accomplice to statutory rape. Last month, the FBI named Jeffs to its Ten Most Wanted List. He has not been seen publicly in nearly two years.
Wisan�s lawsuit alleges Jeffs and the former UEP trustees of misappropriating property, money, livestock, businesses and services that were donated to the trust.
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