Judge gives Utah 90 days to pay bill to managers of sect's land trust

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 18 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has given Utah's attorney general 90 days to pay off more than $5.5 million in debts incurred by managers of a communal land trust once run by jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.

Third District Judge Denise Lindberg set the deadline in an order issued last Monday.

The money is owed to Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan, his attorneys and other firms hired to assist with management of the United Effort Plan Trust — the $114 million communal property trust of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The trust holds the land and homes of FLDS members in the twin border communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., and in Bountiful, British Columbia.

No trust bills have been paid since 2008.

"We are disappointed in the ruling and are reviewing our options for appeal," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said. "We believe it is important to have the decision reviewed as expeditiously as possible."

Utah seized control of the trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leaders. The Arizona Attorney General's Office backed the effort.

Wisan was to be paid from the sale of trust assets, but a string of pending lawsuits, including one pending before Denver's 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, has blocked any land sales.

A large portion of the debt is for legal fees incurred since 2008, when the FLDS first mounted a challenge to state control of the trust.

Other expenses include fees for accounting services, property management, engineering and platting a plan to subdivide Hildale and Colorado City, and public relations and legislative consulting work.

Lindberg's ruling deems most of the expenses as legitimate, although she rejected and reduced the amounts to be paid on some claims. Overall, Lindberg cut just over $65,000 from the more than $5.6 million Wisan initially requested.

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