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Judge rules for court supervision in UEP case

Published: Saturday, July 18 2009 12:38 a.m. MDT

A Utah judge has ruled that several people who want to intervene in the court-supervised handling of the United Effort Plan Trust have no legal standing to do so.

Third District Judge Denise Lindberg, in a three-page ruling, said people who may be potential beneficiaries of the trust have previously been found to not have legal standing, and she dismissed motions filed by those individuals. Among other things, they were trying to replace a court-appointed special fiduciary who is directly handling the UEP's finances.

Lindberg also gave the Utah Attorney General's Office two business days to turn over to the court all payments from the Fundamentalist LDS Church community, which will be given to the trust to pay bills.

The judge also set a hearing for July 29 to address the sale of Berry Knoll Farm, one of the assets.

Assistant attorney general Jerrold Jensen said his office will comply with the judge's order, although Friday is generally a day off for many state employees as a cost-saving measure.

"I anticipate we'll have a check delivered to the court on Tuesday, and we're glad to do it," Jensen said.

Jensen said that selling Berry Knoll Farm had been proposed last year, but many in the FLDS community objected. After a Nov. 14, 2008, hearing in St. George, Lindberg delayed selling the farm on the condition that the community make monthly payments of $64,000 to the attorney general's office as a show of "good faith" and that money would go into the UEP Trust to meet its financial obligations.

The first two payments of the collected money were made, but after that, the payments stopped, Jensen said. A recent payment was made "under protest," and the FLDS community asked the attorney general's office not to disburse it, an action that Lindberg said went against previous court orders.

"The court concludes that the promises and representations upon which the stay of the sale and litigation were predicated have not been honored. As a result, badly-needed funds have not been available to meet the trust's pressing obligations," Lindberg said.

The FLDS Church is a polygamous organization located primarily in the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., although it also has enclaves in Texas and Canada. It has no connection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The FLDS Church established the United Effort Plan, which now reportedly has $114 million in assets, but it was taken over by a Utah state court in 2005, amid allegations of mismanagement by the church's leader, Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs currently is in prison following a 2007 conviction on two counts of being an accomplice to rape related to his role in an arranged marriage between a 14-year-old girl and an adult male. Jeffs also faces other felony charges in Arizona and Texas.

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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