Polygamist sect calls Texas report 'fraudulent'

Polygamist sect calls Texas report 'fraudulent'

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DALLAS (AP) -- A polygamist group accused of widespread abuse and neglect of children at a Texas ranch called the allegations "manufactured" Saturday in a lengthy rebuke of a state report released this week.

The Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado called the findings "as false and fraudulent as the original hoax telephone call" that initiated an April raid of the ranch, and said the saga has left their community poverty-stricken.

The seven-page letter from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is titled "YFZ Raid Was Never Justified." The letter is in response to a state report issued Tuesday that concluded seven teenage girls, ages 12 to 15, were "spiritually married" to adult men and had one or more children.

The Department of Family and Protective Services report also stated that 262 children were listed as neglected because their parents knew about sexual abuse in the household but did not move to protect them.

"For Texas CPS and law-enforcement officials to continue to make disturbing and unfounded allegations of abuse and neglect is nothing more than an attempt to justify their own barbaric actions," read the letter, signed by FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop.

DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said Saturday the agency stood by the report.

"The Eldorado investigation was very thorough. Our report on the investigation documented our actions clearly and we stand by it," he said.

The letter blasts information from Child Protective Services as innacurate and called the allegations of child abuse manufactured. It goes on to say that the ranch must pay more than $544,000 in property taxes as "their resources have been wasted and their source of livelihood cut off."

The state report, which summarizes the investigations done on all 439 children at the West Texas ranch, was issued at the request of the Health and Human Services executive commissioner, a gubernatorial appointee who oversees the protective services agency.

The findings, though shared with law enforcement, are separate from the ongoing criminal cases.

All the children from the ranch were placed in foster care in April after authorities raided it in response to calls to a domestic abuse hot line. Those calls are being investigated as a hoax, though a dozen FLDS men now face charges including sexual abuse and bigamy based on documents and evidence seized at the ranch.

The children were returned to their parents in June after the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state had overstepped in removing all the children when it only had evidence of abuse or neglect involving about a half-dozen girls. Many of the children were boys or younger than 5.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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