Top polygamous leaders busted in Utah food stamp fraud

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Members of Polygamist Community Charged With Food Stamp Fraud

Nearly a dozen leaders who have been running a sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were indicted and arrested Tuesday amid charges of food stamp fraud.

The 11 arrested men include Lyle Jeffs, brother of the high-profile leader Warren Jeffs, who has been serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting his child brides, who were 12 and 15 years old.

SEE MORE: Police vow loyalty to polygamous leader in letters, feds say

Jeffs and other leaders were arrested in raids in Salt Lake City, Utah and the community of Short Creek where they live -- which comprises the towns of the Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.

Isaac Wyler, a former member of the church, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the raid appeared to be biggest he had seen since the 1953 raid in which authorities descended on the town to arrest the largest law enforcement raid in the towns since 1953, when Arizona authorities arrived to arrest every adult male in the community on charges of polygamy.

"There are officers all over town," Wyler told the paper.

Check out images of the community in the 1950s:

8 PHOTOS
Short Creek 1953 polygamy raid
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Top polygamous leaders busted in Utah food stamp fraud
22nd August 1953: The five wives and some of the children of Richard S Jessop, one of the men arrested when police entered the tiny Mormon community of Short Creek, Arizona, in an operation to stamp out polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
29th August 1953: A woman and her baby from the tiny Mormon community of Short Creek, Arizona, where State police have arrested all the menfolk on charges of polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
29th August 1953: A group of children from the tiny Mormon community of Short Creek, Arizona, where State police have arrested all the menfolk on charges of polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
29th August 1953: Matthew Black (aged 17), a member of the Mormon sect, driving a tractor at Short Creek, Arizona (a Mormon community). He is one of the young men left to tend the farmlands after a mass police arrest of Mormon men for suspected polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
22nd August 1953: Two young Mormon wives, both expectant mothers, in the Mormon community of Short Creek, Arizona, after a mass arrest of Mormon men on a charge of polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
22nd August 1953: A Mormon boy at Short Creek, Arizona (a Mormon community) in the wake of a mass arrest of Mormon men for suspected polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
29th August 1953: A single family from the tiny Mormon community of Short Creek, Arizona, where State Police have arrested all the menfolk on charges of polygamy. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6682 - Life Among The Mormons - pub. 1953 (Photo by Joern Gerdts/Picture Post/Getty Images)
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According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah, they are accused of forcing members of the community to share the food assistance -- part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits program -- and divert it to a communal resource.

"This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud," U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said in a statement issued Tuesday. "This indictment charges a sophisticated group of individuals operating in the Hildale-Colorado City community who conspired to defraud a program intended to help low-income individuals and families purchase food."

RELATED: Trial is expected to reveal polygamous towns' inner workings

The Short Creek community's benefits amount to millions of dollars annually, according to the release.

"The violations included in the indictment are especially egregious since they allege that leaders of the conspiracy directed others to commit crimes, for which only certain people benefited," Eric Barnhart, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City Field Office said in a statement. "This type of conduct represents nothing less than pure theft. The FBI and its law enforcement partners will actively pursue those entities or persons who unlawfully manipulate and control government programs for their own gain."

More on AOL.com:
Judges press Utah about polygamy ban in 'Sister Wives' case
The rise of polyamory
Flash flood in small polygamous community opens old wounds

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