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Texas AG: Polygamist sect man skirted bank laws

Texas AG: Polygamist sect man skirted bank laws



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SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A polygamist sect member set to go on trial for bigamy and sexual abuse of a child next month deliberately skirted anti-money laundering laws and used a wife he once abandoned to help front a company in Arizona, prosecutors allege in a court filing.

The Texas Attorney General's Office isn't seeking additional charges against Raymond Jessop, 38, but wants to use the allegations to bolster Jessop's punishment if he is convicted. The court filing lists numerous marriages, the abandonment of wives and children, efforts to avoid banking laws and other so-called "extraneous offenses" that prosecutors believe Jessop engaged in.

Jessop will be the first of a dozen men from a polygamist sect to face criminal trial following a raid of their West Texas ranch in April 2008. His trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 26.

A grand jury indicted Jessop last year on the sexual abuse and bigamy charges. Since grand jury proceedings are secret, it's unclear whether the new allegations were presented to grand jurors or if they could result in later charges.

Jessop's attorney, Mark Stevens, declined Tuesday to comment on the individual allegations but said all are untrue. He said he would contest their admissibility in court.

Jessop, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was indicted last year on charges of sexual assault of a child, stemming from his marriage to a 16-year-old. Prosecutors say he and others refused to take the pregnant teen to a hospital even though she had difficulty delivering the child, putting both her and the infant in danger.

The bigamy charge stems from his alleged marriage to a different girl, a daughter of jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs, on the day after her 15th birthday.

Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult and bigamy includes cases where someone "purports" to be married to more than one person.

The unindicted allegations listed in the court motion filed Friday by Assistant Attorney General Angela Goodwin include several other marriages and allegations related to business improprieties.

Among them, prosecutors say that Jessop and other FLDS members purchased dozens of money orders from different locations on two occasions in 2007 to avoid reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act, a law requiring records and reports of large transactions that could be tied to money laundering or tax evasion. The money orders were used to pay fuel and cement suppliers, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors also allege that Jessop and two other sect members engaged in illegal banking activity that caused Bank of America and Wells Fargo to terminate the accounts of the ranch's holding company. The court filing offered no details.

Jessop is legally married to Mary Musser and listed her name along with that of his sister-in-law's, Jozette Jessop, as executives at Tonto Supply Co. to get status as a women-owned business and to protect him and his brother from liability on projects sought in Mohave County, Ariz., prosecutors said.

Tonto was recently the low bidder for a contract to improve a pathway in Kingman, Ariz., said Mohave County spokesman Darryl Purcell.

Prosecutors say Jessop abandoned Mary Musser, 12 biological children, eight other wives and 10 stepchildren in 2007 for more than a year at Jeffs' instruction.

The prosecutors' filing lists several marriages in Utah and six marriages at the Yearning For Zion ranch in Eldorado between Jessop and other sect women. Three of the Texas marriages were allegedly to the wives of his brother Ernest Merril Jessop after Jeffs' expelled Ernest Jessop from the sect. One of the women was pregnant at the time, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors also accuse Jessop of helping Jeffs administer "correction" to a girl Jeffs married when she was 13. Jessop removed the girl from the ranch and took her to a motel in Amarillo so she and other minor wives would learn what it was like to be alone in the world, the filing says. Church documents released previously paint Jeffs' as a micromanaging leader who controlled most aspects of life at the ranch.

Law enforcement and prosecutors have been pouring over hundreds of boxes of church documents, photos and computer records seized last year.

The raid, brought on by false calls to a domestic abuse hot line, initially resulted in all 439 children from the ranch being placed in foster care, one of the largest child custody cases in U.S. history. All the children have been returned to their mothers or relatives in the FLDS, but criminal charges remain pending against 12 sect men.

Felony charges have been filed against Jessop, Jeffs and nine others. The sect's doctor faces misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.

Jeffs, previously convicted as an accomplice to rape in Utah, awaits trial in Arizona on charges stemming from the arranged marriages of underage girls before he can be tried in Texas on sexual abuse and bigamy charges.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Michelle Roberts Writer

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