A lawsuit against the 3,500-member polygamist church the Apostolic United Brethren has been dismissed.
Virginia Hill, who says the AUB pocketed more than $1.5 million of her personal fortune in 1989, waited too long to file her lawsuit against AUB leader Owen Allred, 4th District Judge Anthony Schofield ruled Monday."I find that Hill did not act reasonably," wrote the judge. "She was on notice that her money was gone and she knew at least some of the responsible parties. Yet she did nothing for 71/2 years." The statute of limitations for civil suits such as this is four years.
The judge left standing a portion of the suit that was against a former real estate agent.
The suit may have left a mark on the AUB church. Allegations of chicanery and deception within the hierarchy brought internal tensions to light and caused some doubters to leave the congregation.
"The AUB corporate syndicate has sand as a foundation and it is slowly sliding away," wrote disgruntled member John Llewellyn in an open letter to the church.
Monday's dismissal will come as a relief to the membership, said attorney Mitch Barker, who represented several of the defendants.
"It means they can concentrate more on things they care about and less on the courts," he said.
Hill, a former actress who starred in several movies made in Ecuador, was never a member of the AUB. She moved to southern Utah after her divorce from a Detroit bookie and fell in with a charismatic preacher named John Shugart, who allegedly convinced her to put up money to purchase the Desert Inn Ranch near St. George for use as a haven for the end of the world.
Hill said the money instead was taken by two of Allred's associates - John Putvin and Dennis Matthews - who brought it to Allred.
The money, estimated at $1.54 million, was used to prop up various business enterprises owned by the church, Hill alleged.
She said she waited until last year to sue because she never found out what had happened to the money until 1995, when some disaffected AUB members tracked her down and told her.