Polygamous leader pleads guilty in fraud case

2016-12-23 16:06
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints women leave the court following a hearing involving John Wayman. (Rick Bowmer, AP)

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints women leave the court following a hearing involving John Wayman. (Rick Bowmer, AP)

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Salt Lake City - A high-ranking Utah polygamous group leader charged in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case has agreed to a plea deal that secured his release from jail after six months.

John Wayman, 57, was one of nearly a dozen people accused of orchestrating a scheme to funnel $12m worth of followers' food stamp benefits into vehicle-purchasing front companies and toward funding leaders' lavish lifestyles.

Defence attorneys had argued the group members were following religious beliefs in sharing what they had with everyone.

Federal prosecutors said they're satisfied with the time Wayman has spent behind bars since meeting with another leader in the middle of the night to plan a church meeting, a violation of his supervised release.

Wayman pleaded guilty to a felony food-stamp fraud charge and was sentenced to time served. Plea deals could be in the works for others charged in the case, prosecutors said.

Days before the deal was signed that set Wayman free, prosecutors successfully argued that he had to stay in jail because he is faithful to the group's prophet Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered wives.

Wayman was accused of preaching about the importance of donating resources to the common good as well as once giving a federal benefit card to a member of his household to buy things for someone else, his lawyer Jim Bradshaw said.


Read more on:    us  |  child abuse  |  fraud

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