SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Attorney General filed a lawsuit this week asking a judge to take over a water company serving polygamous towns along the Utah-Arizona border and alleging water managers loyal to imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs siphoned off $1.7 million in revenue.
The money went toward managers' personal expenses and goods for Jeffs' followers while the water system was allowed to fall into disrepair, state attorneys wrote in court documents filed Monday.
They are asking a judge in southern Utah to dissolve the utility serving the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, and appoint new managers. No hearings were immediately scheduled in front of Judge G. Michael Westfall.
The water company has denied making improper payments and says the utility is solvent. Office clerk Sarah Olds wrote in an affidavit filed in January that she hasn't seen any unusual or payments since she took the job in 2013.
Prosecutors say that financial records from Twin City Water Works show $1.7 million in water revenue was siphoned off between 2004 and 2013 to pay for personal cellphones, car insurance, furniture and other expenses for water managers' families while the water company operated at a loss, prosecutors say in court documents.
Money also went to a storehouse for members used by followers of Jeffs, according to a report filed with the lawsuit that found financial irregularities and missing information in the water company's records.
State attorneys also point to a seized letter written to Jeffs in 2006 by Joseph Allred, who was then the president of the utility. In it, he asked Jeffs for his advice on how to use the water revenues. Written while Jeffs was a fugitive on FBI's Most Wanted list and later seized by police, the letter addressed Jeffs as a holy prophet and says Allred had been paying his family expenses from utility revenues.
Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison after being convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides. But he is thought to still be leading the sect from prison.
Members of his group, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.
Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice more than century ago.
Allred is now mayor of Colorado City, the Spectrum newspaper of St. George reports.
Monday's lawsuit comes after a judge dismissed a similar complaint filed by the court-appointed manager of a trust that holds most of the land and property in Hildale and Colorado City. Judge Denise Lindberg in Salt Lake City ruled earlier this month that the case should be filed in a separate proceeding.