News Column

Texas Targets Ranch Used by Polygamists, Warren Jeffs

Nov. 28, 2012

Bill Hanna

The Texas attorney general's office is attempting to seize the YFZ Ranch in West Texas where the followers of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs first surfaced in 2004 near the town of Eldorado.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed the search-and-seizure warrant Wednesday in the 51st State District Court in Schleicher County in what Abbott's office said "begins the final chapter of the State's nearly five-year effort to pursue widespread criminal misconduct at the YFZ Ranch."

Jeffs is serving two prison terms for the sexual assault of two girls. Other Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints followers have also been convicted

"FLDS members used the ranch to illegally harbor Jeffs when he was a fugitive on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List. Evidence that law enforcement authorities collected at the YFZ Ranch also shows that ranch residents 'engaged in, and/or acquired the property with the intent to commit, felony offenses upon the property and within the buildings and improvements of this property,.'" the attorney general's office said in a news release.

Authorities can seek to seize property that was used to commit or facilitate certain criminal conduct, the attorney general's office said.

"The affidavit and seizure warrant filed today by the State begins the legal process for seizing the YFZ Ranch property. Because the law includes due process protections for the owners of property that is the subject of a seizure warrant, the warrant and affidavits filed today mark only the beginning of the legal proceedings," Abbott's office said.

The ranch drew national attention in April 2008 when Child Protective Services removed about 460 children from the ranch, claiming there was a pattern of sexual abuse of underage girls. But the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin ordered most of the children returned, saying Texas failed to prove they were in danger and proving the need to be removed from their families.

The state then launched criminal prosecutions of men in the sect.



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Source: (c) 2012 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram