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Judge orders pair of FLDS leaders to remain in jail prior to fraud trial

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered that two leaders of the Fundamentalist LDS Church will remain in custody in an alleged fraudulent food stamp scheme.

The order from U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart denied the motions of John Wayman and Seth Jeffs to reconsider releasing them after they allegedly violated the conditions of their initial release earlier this year.

Also Wednesday, a plea and sentencing hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in Wayman's case. The anticipated terms of the plea were not specified in court documents.

Prosecutors say Jeffs and Wayman secretly met with each other four times at a Short Creek meetinghouse in late July — under orders from imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs — to put together a list of banished former church members to interview for rebaptism.

Stewart had previously allowed the two men to be released from jail, but prohibited them from meeting with each other or any of the other nine co-defendants in the fraud case.

The attorneys for Wayman and Seth Jeffs argued before Stewart on Tuesday that the men had learned a valuable lesson not to disobey court directives and would comply fully with all conditions if they were to be released a second time. But federal prosecutors countered that the men are more loyal to the wishes of Warren Jeffs than any legal directive and have a history of obstructing justice.

Stewart's order agreed with the prosecutors' line of reasoning, saying there is no indication of a "change in circumstance" that would justify a second release.

"The court remains convinced the defendants are unlikely to abide by any condition or combination of conditions of release," the order states.

Wayman, Seth Jeffs and nine other FLDS leaders and members were charged in February with misusing food stamps and putting millions of dollars in illicit funds into front companies. Seth Jeffs was still scheduled to go to trial in January as of Wednesday.

One defendant in the case, FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, allegedly slipped out of his ankle monitor in June and fled the Salt Lake County home where he was staying. The FBI has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.