Warrants served on polygamous towns in Utah, Ariz.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Government agencies in twin polygamous communities along the Utah-Arizona border were served Tuesday with search warrants seeking evidence on suspected misuse of public funds, authorities said.

More than 25 deputies with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office moved in to Colorado City and Hildale just before dawn. They were looking for evidence of government corruption.

The communities are home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an embattled religious sect that follows Warren Jeffs, a church leader serving prison time after being convicted of rape as an accomplice for his role in the marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin.

Management of the twin towns and the FLDS have been under increasing scrutiny since 2005, following allegations of an increase in underage marriages and misuse of a church property trust.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office said warrants were served Tuesday at fire stations and private residences in both towns

"There's an investigation being conducted by the county attorney's office at this time for a possible misuse of public funds and fraudulent schemes at the fire department and possibly the city government," Sheriff Tom Sheahan told The Associated Press.

Sheahan said the allegations were specific to City Manager David Darger and Fire Chief Jake Barlow, both in Colorado City. Telephones messages left for the two officials were not immediately returned.

The warrants allowed officers to search through documents and computer records. Similar records were obtained months ago in a situation that may be related.

Court-appointed fiduciary Bruce Wisan subpoenaed records for the two cities' water system. He was surprised to find millions of dollars in expenditures, even though the water company was doing no construction.

Wisan says records indicate $4.3 million was diverted to the family of a public official, to FLDS companies, and to construction of the FLDS colony in Texas.

"All the residents of the community are not members of the FLDS Church, and so you have some people that appear to be taking advantage of the religion and their access to money," Wisan says.

Wisan turned all his evidence over to the attorneys general in both states. He doesn't know if that helped launch the raids on the fire department Tuesday, but he suspects Mohave County deputies found evidence of similar corrupt practices in other branches of local government.

Salt Lake City attorney Rod Parker, who represents the FLDS, said he had not yet seen the warrants and was unclear about the scope of information being sought.

Peter Stirba, a Salt Lake City attorney who represent the city of Hildale, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

No one was arrested in Tuesday's raid, and Sheahan said officers were expected to wrap up the searches later in the day.


Story compiled with contributions from John Hollenhorst and AP writer Jennifer Dobner.

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