April 9th, 2008
09:18 PM ET

Randi Kaye: Are you paying for polygamy?


I hope you have some extra cash lying around because Warren Jeffs and his polygamist sect may be dipping into your wallet.

I’ve been following the money for about two years now and I have some bad news for you: It seems you, the taxpayer, may be helping finance this polygamist sect and Jeffs’ FLDS church.

How, you ask?

Here’s what I know: Investigators and former followers tell me the sect is beating the welfare system in a couple of ways. Some members are applying for food stamps, then sending that food to Jeffs’ compounds around the country, including the recently-raided compound in Texas.

Also, because the laws in this country only recognize one of their multiple marriages as legal, the other wives are apparently claiming to be single moms struggling to care for a house full of dependents. This makes them eligible for government aid, and lots of it. They are on welfare and you are footing the bill! 

Do I have your attention yet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. My sources say Jeffs is taking from his most loyal followers too. Let’s face it, he has a lot of bills. He paid more than $800,000 for the land in Texas on which he built his massive compound.

I’ve learned male members of the sect are ordered to work for construction companies owned by FLDS church members. Those guys have to turn over at least 10 percent of their paychecks to the church and Jeffs. In some cases, they turn over their entire paycheck. How much money does the church raise this way? One investigator told me it funnels about $2 million a month to Jeff’s church.

That’s $24 million a year!

It’s all disbursed by Jeffs’ number two, Merril Jessup, to the various compounds. 

Those closest to the sect tell me, make no mistake about this: Just because self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs is in prison for arranging a marriage with an underage girl, that doesn’t mean he’s not in control anymore. He is very much in control…

Hold onto your wallet !

– Randi Kaye, 360° Correspondent 

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Polygamy • Randi Kaye
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Landolfo D'Aquino MD ThD

    As long as Mr. Laurean remains in Mexico he has some hope of avoiding defeating the North Carolina criminal injustice system. An attorney in Mexico City has been engaged and instructed to establish a defense fund to support Mr. Laurean's extradition fight.

    April 10, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  2. Taj

    American tax payers (individuals, Corporations etc) are paying for all the goods & ill's of this country. Nothing surprises me any more.

    April 10, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  3. Mike in NYC

    Let's try to avoid the selective outrage, folks.

    Our cities are filled with generational welfare families who've been bleeding the system for years.

    Women with kids from multiple fathers who show no interest in raising them merit at least a little criticism, don't you think? This includes plenty of underage "babymommas," just like in this story.

    April 10, 2008 at 9:45 am |
  4. Rob-BC,Canada

    Could someone please cast more light on the Bountiful BC,Canada compound.We have been hoping to see our law enforcement take action against the leader of this extension of Warren Jeffs cult but nothing ever seems to happen.We have heard the stories of young girls being brought from Utah to marry older men in this compound as well.Perhaps with some exposure by your reports something can finally be made to happen to help these young women and children as well.

    April 10, 2008 at 5:12 am |
  5. Donna R.

    This is disturbing!! Why did it take so long to figure this fact out. It is obvious that this was the reason they pushed so many into giving birth, starting at such a young age. It had, in my mind, nothing to do with religion. It was all for the love of money. They abused their women, their children and the welfare system all in the name of greed. This is no more than a cult, who created their own rules to fit their needs. This compound should be torn down!!!!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2008 at 5:03 am |
  6. James

    I would like to know if there are OTHER AREAS in the United States that have cults/ religious group who appear to dress / raise large families/ and shun outsiders?

    The areas which come to mind are in Pennsylvania, and Loveland, Colorado. The women in these communities look like they all use the same dress pattern for the homemade clothes and wear their hair long with the little puff style at the top of their forehead. Hair is never cut, and the children (girls) even wear bloomers underneath their dresses for additional modesty. Are there MORE compounds around the United States than the government is willing to admit to?

    What I want to know is what happens to the 50 year old women or older (potential grandmothers) of theses cults. I only hear & see pictures of the younger women & young daughters, still living in the compound. Once these supposed wives are beyond breeding age, WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM?? Is there a nursing home compound for the elderly?

    There seems to be plenty of old hound dogs after some Fresh young innocent women, which is so sick. WHY, WHY, WHY, when these stories come out to the eyes of public review does it seem to always center on SEX, CONTROL, POWER and $$$$$$?? Some things do not change no matter what century you live in. I can not understand how ANY MOTHER could turn her own flesh and blood into a breeding factory & then the Mother will shortly be put aside for a new sweet young thing? WHAT HAPPENS TO THESE OLDER WOMEN? SURLY THERE MUST BE SOME ANGRY OLDER WOMEN OUT THERE??

    Also, why can't the govt. follow the money? In some States, if the child's fathers name is not placed upon the birth certificate, the Mother is not eligible for govt assistance. If the mother DOES id the father then the Govt. / State agency can go after the finances of the Father to pay back child support/ govt assistance to the State agency. Now when all the mothers have a canned spill about who the child’s father is, I guess they could out fox the system quite easily. Welfare fraud has been around since the 60's, but NOW you have white citizens committing Sexual abuse & fraud on a major scale. Seems to me these cults are becoming quite sophisticated, almost like money laundering.

    Again, once the Mother ages out of her breeding years, her govt assistance will be cut off as the children reach adulthood. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THESE OLDER WOMEN & WHERE DO THEY GO?

    April 10, 2008 at 2:33 am |
  7. Kelsey

    This story...wow...not surprised by the twisted thinking that somethings can be justified while mistreating, manipulating and stealing individual freedoms are A-O-kay.

    Just a couple other things:
    – Don't mess with Texas!
    Texans – please show FLDS that you are good and kind!
    – I'm still freaking out on the reported "sex" bed in the FLDS temple. Just to clear this up–LDS Temples DON'T have one. Yikies!

    April 10, 2008 at 1:39 am |
  8. Pam

    What must God think of all of this corruption and abuse done in HIS name? Thankfully, God will have the final word. Unfortunately this situation is just one example of the many diverse cults in the US, as well as Canada and Mexico. Our job as U.S. citizens is to continue to pray and speak out, notifying our police, social services, and politicians, when we know of abuses until something is done to prevent this type of crime. Anytime adults are allowed to make bad decisions including criminal activity (incest, drug abuse, theft, and all of the other sins that all races, religions, and cultures are capable of committing), the children will ALWAYS SUFFER. God Forbid!

    Louisville, KY

    April 10, 2008 at 1:35 am |
  9. olivia

    Where are aircraft for domestic carriers being maintained. Do some research and find out if domestic airline mechanics are being out sourced to Mexico.


    April 9, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  10. L. Stetler

    makes me sick to think 24 million tax free when we have many homeless, elderly, and familes that are sick and cant afford their meds...but these wackos live high on the hog on us...anyone else feel a sign of the end coming? this whole subject creeps me out..

    Lafayette, IN

    April 9, 2008 at 11:43 pm |
  11. Missy

    I always knew we footed the bill for these cults. I just don't understand why it continues. The government shouldn't provide welfare for known members of the FLDS. All those women and children that were freed should take all that money and make something of themselves and quit living off of me.

    April 9, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  12. liv, ct

    The government has to check on every claim for welfare then. This is what the taxes are for also – to check that the claims are legitimate. I guess the people need to be educated in many ways.

    Why a man needs multiple wifes? What if women would want to have a multiple husbands? Not me .........

    April 9, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  13. Sherri


    The welfare system fraud is called "Bleeding the Beast".
    Now if that doesn't make your blood boil, nothing will !!!!

    April 9, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  14. Carol

    The scarey thing to me is how long this has been going on. Most of the law enforcement and social services have known for years and yet nothing is done about it. Not by the local angencies, State legislators or Federal goverment. My qestion to all these people is why??

    Now that this group is in the media spotlight maybe something will be done before it gets even worse and children die (if they already haven't). It is time to do something!

    April 9, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  15. PodChicks

    I wonder what the IRS is cooking up for FLDS??

    April 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  16. Kelly (Winchester,TN)

    It absolutly makes me sick that basically the government is allowing a pedophile to make millions and take advantage of U.S. citizens. There is more action being taken on drug dealers, such as drug raids and longterm prison sentences. What about the people abusing children? It amazes me that this seems to be allowed to go on. It is one thing to be an adult and choosing to get married, but forcing a young girl to be married to a man that could even be the age of her grandfather is disgusting. These people are supposed to be so religious, what Bible are they reading from? The raid in Texas should be the first step in cleaning up a horrible mess across America. The other compunds that are known about should be raided immediately for the safety of these children. It seems that there is more attention on the War in Iraq than our own country and too me this is a prime example. If the government would put more emphasis on what's going on in OUR country maybe things like this would not be as prominent.

    April 9, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  17. Amy

    This is welfare fraud on a monumental level. The only way you will convict these FLDS church leaders, like Warren Jeffs is to convict him of IRS tax evasion and welfare fraud. The first wife is "married" but the 10 other wives are "single mothers' and collect welfare. all the money goes to the men. This in NOT about religion this is about FRAUD. The other charges should include: children abuse that includes no education, especially the girls and young women. The sadness of this recent event is that the federal governent and the states of AZ , UT and TX,et c.. have known about this for YEARS! The local police are usually FLDS supporters and in on it. Sorry, to those law officers who i offend but it is true in AZ and UT. most local govt jobs are run by the FLDS men. I have a cabin near Hurricane, La Verkin, UT and the hundreds of women I see in the "Holly Hobby" outfits and the men that work all of the construction jobs that DO turn over all of their checks to Ghost LLC"s run by Warren Jeffs. Why has it taken so long for the Federal Govt to do anything. Why isn't this a federal crime. Why have the Governors of TX, UT, AZ DONE NOTHING? Who are they afraid of? The worst is that these women have never had an education and would not know how to live in "real" America. They have never worked and their children have never gone to school. And, they are also inter-married- inbred, causing horrible health problems. Many of the children don't even know who their real mother or father is....

    April 9, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  18. M Landolphe D'Aquin-Burglass MD ThD

    Let us pray that in the course of the "legal" search carried out by the religion police neither a peashooter nor a slingshot be found. For if found, we can expect that blackshirted ATF agents will be summoned to "protect" the larger community, thereby setting the stage for yet another Branch Davidian-Waco police power "salvation" scenario. Put another way, we will see another round in the ongoing battle between state religion and the "cults."

    Lamentable and pathetic.

    April 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  19. Pat Evans

    Several years ago I watched a polygamist documentary possibly on PBS…
    Several of the women (wives) were educated; one was an attorney and went “out side” to work.
    The remainder were on government aid since the US only recognizes 1 wife; as bigamy is against US law.
    Women with 5 children, 8 children etc were drawing welfare and food stamps for each and every child from the government. Probably section 8 housing, WIC and any other government assistance available as they knew how to manipulate every cent possible from the government.

    April 9, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  20. Jolene

    You got my attention! It's scary that Warren Jeffs still has a presence even while in jail. I can only hope that with all of this added focus on the FLDS, our government takes a good look at the criteria for obtaining food stamps and other assistance. It is interesting that the polygamy lifestyle seems to fall right into our social assistance criteria simply because of the unusually large number of children and lack of income within those families.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 9, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  21. Genevieve M, TX

    How about saving the taxpayers money and skip the trial (he is obviously guilty). Just have a jury and/or judge sentence him to prison.

    Seriously, people like him are the scum of the Earth.

    April 9, 2008 at 10:01 pm |
  22. Sharon Ohio

    Then the government should confiscate the land and belongs and sell them to recoup for the loss.

    Those defrauding the government should be arrest and imprisoned, and held liable for restitution.

    April 9, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  23. Slater

    Like i said in my earlier posts...brainwashing history. They get new members to give an "initiation donation" and the working members donate 10% (known as tithing in other religions) of the paycheck to the church to secure their "faith". The welfare collection does not surprise me.

    April 9, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  24. Annie Kate


    I'd like to say I'm surprised at how the FLDS is basically defrauding the welfare system while Jeffs gets richer each month off his followers. I would hate to see children going hungry but to live their lifestyle and expect the rest of us to pay for it is a little over the top. Sounds like the welfare folks need to investigate some of this and put a stop to a lot of it, especially the part where people in other locations get the food stamps and send them to the compounds.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 9, 2008 at 9:42 pm |