AP reports that Seth Jeffs, a high-ranking member of the polygamous FLDS Church, has accepted a plea deal in his prosecution for food stamp fraud. Under FLDS doctrine known as the Law of Consecration, faithful members who were food stamp recipients were required to donate their benefits to the FLDS church through a clearinghouse known as the Bishop’s Storehouse. Food and household items were then redistributed to all in the community, whether or not they were food-stamp eligible. (See prior posting.) Last month Jeffs lost in his attempt to have his indictment dismissed on religious free exercise grounds. In the plea agreement, Jeffs pleaded guilty to felony fraud and prosecutors accepted the 6 months he has already served in jail as his punishment. Conspiracy and money laundering charges were dropped, and Jeffs was released from jail yesterday. Jeffs could have faced 20 years in prison. Jeffs is the second of 11 defendants to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors, and plea deals with other defendants are possible.
UPDATE: Fox News (Jan. 4) reports that 6 other defendants pleaded guilty in plea deals that merely require them to take a class on the proper use of SNAP (food stamp) benefits.