Judge Considers Request to Freeze FLDS Trust

Judge Considers Request to Freeze FLDS Trust

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A judge on Friday took under advisement a request from the state of Utah to freeze the assets of a trust fund of a polygamous sect and replace its top leaders with an independent third party.

"This has the highest priority on my list of things to do," Judge Robert Adkins said without indicating when he might rule.

The state is seeking the immediate suspension of church president Warren Jeffs' authority, along with that of five other trustees, over the trust fund for the southern Utah-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The trust, called the United Effort Plan, controls church property and assets, including church members' homes and land. It has been estimated to contain as much as $100 million, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said.

Shurtleff said the move is necessary because there is evidence trustees have recently moved to divest some trust assets and are not acting in the best interests of all church members.

No attempt was made to notify Jeffs of Friday's hearing, Utah assistant Attorney General Timothy Bodily said.

"If we had provided a notice, we believe more transfers would occur," he said.

There was no lawyer in court Friday representing Jeffs, the other trustees or the church.

The FLDS church traces its roots to Joseph Smith, founder of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1890, the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially abolished plural marriage and members who advocate it are excommunicated.

The majority of 10,000 residents the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., belong to the FLDS church.

Jeffs has not been seen in either location for more than a year, and is thought to be on a 2,000-acre ranch near Eldorado, Texas, where he reportedly plans to move select members of the church.

Some ousted church members believe Jeffs is draining the church's trust in order to fund construction of the Texas compound and fear he will evict those who remain behind from their homes.

The attorney general made an effort to replace UEP trustees in February in a different case, but the courts said he lacked jurisdiction.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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