The Latest: Polygamous sect leaders plead not guilty

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

The Latest on the arrests of several leaders from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect (all times local):

11 a.m.

Two polygamous sect leaders in Utah are pleading not guilty to orchestrating what prosecutors call a wide-ranging food-stamp fraud scheme.

Lyle Jeffs entered the plea Wednesday during his first court appearance in Salt Lake City, wearing a jail jumpsuit and looking somber. A judge ordered him to stay in jail and scheduled a hearing for March 7 to discuss whether he'll be released as the case plays out.

Jeffs is one of 11 charged in a crackdown that marked a serious blow for the group based on the Utah-Arizona border. Another defendant, John Wayman, also pleaded not guilty. He will remain in custody until at least a hearing Friday.

Prosecutors want all 11 people kept behind bars.

Other defendants are scheduled to make appearances in St. George, Utah, and Custer County, South Dakota.


2 a.m.

Several leaders from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect are expected to make their initial court appearances Wednesday after their arrests on federal allegations of food stamp fraud and money laundering.

The suspects were arrested Tuesday on accusations of orchestrating a yearslong fraud scheme instructing members how to use food-stamp benefits illegally for the benefit of the faith and avoid getting caught.

U.S. attorneys say 11 people were charged, including Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs. They are top-ranking leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and brothers of imprisoned sect leader Warren Jeffs.

The charges are the government's latest move targeting the sect based on the Utah-Arizona border, coinciding with legal battles over child labor and discrimination against nonbelievers.

U.S. Attorney John Huber says: "This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud."