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FBI Receives Limited Number of Calls on Polygamist Church Leader

Since fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was put on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and profiled on "America's Most Wanted," the FBI has received a "limited number" of calls to its Salt Lake City office.

Jeffs is wanted in Utah and Arizona on charges that he arranged polygamist marriages for underage girls.

He was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitives list Saturday, less than an hour before the television show, and the federal reward for him was boosted to $100,000.

Avery Mann, a spokesman for "America's Most Wanted," declined to say how many calls the program had received about Jeffs. "Regrettably, AMW does not release information on numbers of tips or locations," he said.

Jeffs, 50, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is based in the border communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

It also has enclaves in Eldorado, Texas; Mancos, Colo.; Pringle, S.D.; and British Columbia, and a farm near Pioche, Nev.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Patrick Kiernan said calls were received over the weekend at the Salt Lake City office concerning Jeffs, but he didn't have details about the tips. Those phoned in from Utah, Idaho and Montana would be handled by the Salt Lake City office. Tips from outside the region would be forwarded to other FBI jurisdictions, Kiernan said.

At an FBI news conference on Saturday, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard requested a federal task force be formed to hunt Jeffs.

Washington County (Utah) Sheriff Kirk Smith said Sunday that a task force is not necessary.

"I think, at this time, we've got some good intelligence," Smith said. "I think we're going to find him. ... I would personally rather see us sit tight and see what happens."

Kiernan said he couldn't comment on the possibility of forming a task force.

"That's something we could discuss. ... I'm just not sure about a task force," he said.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, favored the idea. There are areas that the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office could work together to investigate ongoing criminal allegations in Hildale and Colorado City, he said.

The FLDS church is one of a number of polygamist sects in and near Utah. They believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went the wrong direction when it abandoned polygamy more than a century ago as Utah was seeking statehood. The great majority of the polygamists are believed to have been raised in the sects, while a small number leave the Mormon church to join them. The Mormon church excommunicates members who practice or advocate polygamy.

Estimates of the number of polygamists range from 30,000 to 100,000.

Polygamists were prosecuted in Utah during the first half of the last century, but then public feelings turned against separating the men from their families and imprisoning them. However, in recent years there has been renewed interest in prosecuting particular offenses within the sects, including marriage of underage girls, coercion, child abuse and welfare fraud.

Jeffs has not been seen by anyone outside of the FLDS community for nearly two years. At various times, he has been rumored to be at one or another of the church's various outposts.