Leader of polygamist sect with B.C. ties arrested in U.S.
The fugitive leader of a controversial polygamist sect that includes a small community in southeastern British Columbia has beencaptured in Nevada during a routine traffic stop, the FBI says.
Warren Jeffs, 50, and two other people were taken into custody without incident after being pulled over by the Nevada Highway Patrol just north of Las Vegas on Monday nightbecausethe vehicle's temporarylicence plates were not fully visible.
"We are very pleased that this was resolved without any violence," said Steven Martinez, the FBI special agent in charge of investigation.
Jeffs initially gave an alias before confirming his identity to the trooper, who recognized him,Martinez said. Investigators recovered about $50,000 in cash from the vehicle, as well as a large number of cellphones, laptop computers and wigs, he added.
The two other people in the vehicle were released Tuesday morning and will not be charged, Martinez said.
Jeffs has been the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002.
The sect, a group of self-described "fundamentalist Mormons," includes the 1,000-member community of Bountiful near Creston, B.C. That communitywas headed by its former bishop, Winston Blackmore, who has more than 20 wives and at least 103 children.
He was excommunicated by Jeffs several years ago,leavingthe community split.
Jeffs has been on the FBI's10 Most Wanted List since May, with $100,000 offered for information leading to his arrest.
He's accusedof sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.
Safety concerns for commune members
Debra Palmer,who left the fundamentalist commune in Bountiful in 1988,told CBC News that she was surprised and worried after hearing that Jeffs had been arrested.
Palmer, who lives with her family in Saskatchewan,has alleged she and her children were being abused under the polygamist system.
She said she still has friends and family in communes controlled by Jeffs and is worried for their safety.
"There's still thousands and thousands of people who are under his control, who are under the control of his enforcers, and lieutenants and bishops, and this is just a long ways from being over," Palmer warned.
Mark Shurtleff, Utah's attorney general, was more optimistic in his view of how the arrest would affect the group.
"I believe a lot of those people live in fear of him and what he might do to their families because he's been so prolific in tearing those families apart, and now his ability to do that is substantially altered."
Blackmore, 49, went to the media in June, alleging that members of Bountiful werebeing persecuted by the RCMP and federal immigration officials.
Blackmore said at the time thathe expected he would soon face criminal charges. He also saidthree of his wives, who are U.S. citizens, had been ordered to leave Canada.