The FBI has paid out a $50,000 reward to two people who provided information that led to the June 14 arrest of Lyle Jeffs, who had absconded a year earlier while awaiting trial in a federal food-stamp fraud case.
The reward money was divided proportionally between the two unnamed recipients, based on their level of assistance, the FBI said Monday.
Jeffs, 57, believed to be a leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), was on pre-trial release when he fled from home confinement in Salt Lake City on June 18, 2016.
In early July, two men spotted Jeffs pawning tools at a Yankton, S.D., business, according to the FBI. One of them spotted Jeffs a second time July 23 and became suspicious, partly because Jeffs was wearing layers of clothing, a hat and sunglasses indoors. The tipster thought to note the partial license plate of the vehicle Jeffs was driving. That information was given to law enforcement and triggered an extensive search in the area, the FBI said.
The next day, Yankton Police Lt. Todd Brandt, while off duty, spotted the vehicle, a silver, late-model Ford F-150, at the Lewis and Clark Marina in Yankton. Officers conducted a traffic stop and the driver admitted to being Lyle Jeffs.
"This case highlights the importance of reporting anything suspicious, no matter how insignificant it may seem," said FBI Salt Lake City Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dan Brady. "In this case, the tipsters were observant and acted on instinct. There is no doubt their involvement led to Jeffs' quick arrest."
A 10-day trial for Jeffs has been set to begin Sept. 18 before U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart.
Jeffs was indicted in February 2016, along with 10 other FLDS members with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and conspiracy to launder money.
After his arrest in South Dakota, Jeffs was indicted with an additional count of failure to appear in court.
Prosecutors allege that church leaders in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., ordered members to give their SNAP benefits — in food and cash transfers — to the church, which collects and redistributes commodities to the community.
All the other defendants have pleaded guilty. Jeffs' is the only case remaining.