Secretive Polygamous Sect Ordered to Pay Nearly $1M Over Alleged Child Labor Violations

A secretive polygamous sect in Utah, including a church leader and his business affiliate, were ordered to pay about $1 million over allegedly violating child labor laws.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), Bishop Lyle Jeffs and his business contractor, Brian Jessop were accused of illegally hiring children who worked at a pecan farm in southern Utah from 2008 to 2013, CNN reported.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jill Parish of Utah ordered Jeffs to pay roughly $312,000 in back wages and a similar amount in damages, according to court documents. The church, Jeffs, and Jessop are also expected to pay about $280,000 in back wages.

Court documents from 2019 revealed that the U.S. Department of Labor alleged Paragon Contractors, a company that Jessop operated, used children from the FLDS church to work on the farm, according to CNN.

The documents also revealed that Jeffs and Jessop allegedly didn't respond to subpoenas and declined to provide the names and the working hours of those who labored at the farm.

"Consequently, there are no precise records reflecting the specific number of uncompensated hours worked by children for Defendants in violation of the child labor provisions of the (Fair Labor Standards Act)," the court documents read, according to the network. "The children were part of the elusive, tight-knit, and very controlled FLDS polygamist enclave closely linked to Paragon."

Jeffs in 2017 was sentenced to over four years in federal prison for food stamp fraud and for fleeing house arrest as he waited for trial. Meanwhile, his brother Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for sexual assault and aggravated assault of two young girls.

The FLDS, an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, believes that those who pursue polygamy are blessed in heaven, the Associated Press reported in February. The sect reportedly has around 10,000 members, including many who live in Colorado City in Arizona and Hildale in Utah.

In 2017, the federal government filed a lawsuit against Hildale and Colorado City that alleged discrimination against people who were not members of the FLDS church, the AP reported in August. The lawsuit also alleged that the police force was more devoted to Warren Jeffs than it was to other residents. Consequently, a federal judge in Phoenix decided to place communities in Colorado City under an oversight of 10 years. The ruling also included hiring a policing consultant to reform the Colorado City Marshal's Office, according to the AP.

Secretive Polygamous Sect to Pay Nearly $1Mn
The secretive polygamous sect FLDS, including a church leader and his business affiliate, were ordered to pay about $1 million by a federal judge this week over allegedly violating child labor laws. Above, women and children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who were removed from the Yearning for Zion compound in Eldorado, Texas, are seen on April 7, 2008 in San Angelo, Texas. Photo by Mike Terry/Deseret Morning News/Getty Images