- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Three suspects in a food stamp fraud case against a polygamous sect were re-arrested on suspicion of violating the terms of their supervised release by being in the same location on multiple days, prosecutors said Tuesday in Utah.

Authorities say GPS monitors worn by Seth Jeffs, John Wayman and Preston Barlow revealed the meetings last week. No further information was available on where they met or what they did.

The suspects each denied the allegations through their attorneys during a court appearance in St. George. The Spectrum newspaper reported (https://bit.ly/2avWlXK ).

All three were granted releases earlier this year pending trial despite assertions by the prosecution that they were flight risks.

Their arrests came six weeks after sect leader Lyle Jeffs escaped home confinement in Salt Lake City. He is also accused in the food stamp case and remains at large.

The three men were among 11 people arrested in February and accused of diverting at least $12 million worth of federal benefits. All the defendants have pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges.

Prosecutors allege that Seth Jeffs and Wayman were ringleaders in the scheme. Wayman is a former bishop in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, and a close confidant of imprisoned sect leader Warren Jeffs, prosecutors say.

Seth Jeffs oversees the South Dakota congregation of the sect, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Prosecutors say sect leaders instructed followers to buy items with their food stamp cards and give them to a church warehouse where leaders decided how to distribute products to followers.

Authorities also say food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

Members of the sect believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

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Information from: The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com

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