16 Jul 2008

Shurtleff to testify before Congress on polygamous sect

Legal News Line - July 15, 2008

by Chris Rizo

SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline)-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff will testify before a U.S. Senate panel investigating a polygamous sect in Texas, Utah and Colorado, his spokesman said Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is probing allegations of fraud, bribery, extortion and crimes against children in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Shurtleff, a Republican, has been pursuing an investigation into the FLDS Church.

His spokesman Paul Murphy told Legal Newsline that Shurtleff is happy that the U.S. government is taking a bigger interest in potential federal crimes by the reclusive sect.

"These people have been ignored for the last 50 years," Murphy said. "We think the states of Utah and Arizona have done everything possible to pursue allegations of state crimes."

Among other allegations, Murphy said FLDS members have been suspected of flouting federal child labor laws and avoiding paying federal taxes.

"There are allegations that a lot of money is being funneled about without being accounted for," Murphy said.

The Senate hearing, called by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., comes on the heels of a meeting in Las Vegas between several state attorneys general and officials to discuss legal issues relating to polygamy.

At the closed-door meeting were Shurtleff, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard along with federal and local authorities.

The June 11 meeting followed public comments by Reid that criticized authorities in Arizona and Utah for not doing more to crackdown on crimes in polygamous communities, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

For his part, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently appointed a senior Justice Department prosecutor to work with Utah, Arizona and Nevada to review how federal authorities can help investigate and prosecute polygamy-related crimes.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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