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Judge asked to stop FLDS taking assets

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Following the disappearance of a grain elevator system from the polygamous border town of Colorado City, Ariz., a judge is being asked to block the removal of property from land belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

A 3rd District Court judge has scheduled a hearing for today in Salt Lake City on a request for a preliminary injunction. It would halt the removal of property attached to real estate owned by the United Effort Plan Trust. A temporary restraining order signed last week by Judge Denise Lindberg said that includes "buildings, fixtures, modular homes, heating systems, cooling systems, electrical systems, plumbing systems, water systems, elevator systems and any other affixed equipment."

Removal of any property requires written permission by the court-appointed special fiduciary of the UEP Trust, Bruce Wisan.

In January, a grain elevator system was seen being dismantled and taken from a storehouse in Colorado City. Anti-polygamy activists documented it and the Colorado City Town Marshal's Office was notified. Despite that, the farm equipment vanished in the middle of the night.

"The grain elevator, in my opinion, was clearly attached to the silo. The police took the position it was personal property," Wisan told the Deseret Morning News on Tuesday. "They had two large cranes and welding equipment to undo the grain elevator. The police were not cooperative at all. In my opinion, they were aiding in the process of taking that property."

Telephone calls by the Deseret Morning News to the Colorado City Town Marshal's Office were not returned Tuesday.

FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs, charged with crimes related to performing child bride marriages, remains on the run. The FBI has added him to its Most Wanted List.

In June 2005, a judge froze the assets of the UEP Trust, which controls homes, buildings and businesses in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz. The assets are estimated at more than $100 million. Wisan was soon appointed to oversee the trust and the courts recently appointed an advisory board.

"We think it's important that the court make it plain to individuals that they can't trespass on trust property without authorization," said Assistant Utah Attorney General Tim Bodily.

The grain elevator system isn't the only thing to vanish from UEP Trust-owned land. A warehouse that once housed a log home construction business disappeared from Hildale in June 2005. A building adjacent to a Colorado City elementary school vanished at the same time.

"I think they (FLDS members) look at the court intervention here as a hostile government takeover," Wisan said. "Warren (Jeffs) has told them to say nothing, do nothing, sign nothing. They function as if the court process hasn't happened."

Former FLDS Church member Richard Holm supports the injunction. He said he considers himself a beneficiary of the United Effort Plan Trust.

"I've invested a lot in the UEP," he said. "My home is the main thing I want back. There are some things that maybe could be removed with permission. It's right that people who want to take things should talk to the fiduciary."

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border hope an injunction will help stop the disappearing acts.

"It should help," said Mohave County Attorney's Office investigator Gary Engels. "People are now on notice that they'll be in violation of a court order if they take anything from UEP land."

Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith hopes FLDS members respect the court order but expressed some doubt.

"I don't know," Smith said. "We'll just have to see what happens."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com