After years of silence, members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church are challenging the man appointed by the courts to oversee the polygamous sect's real-estate holdings arm.
A lawsuit was filed in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court late Friday, seeking to set aside an $8.8 million default judgment awarded to the court-appointed special fiduciary of the United Effort Plan Trust. The money was awarded in 2007 to Bruce Wisan after the UEP's former trustees, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, failed to respond to Wisan's lawsuit alleging they defrauded the trust.
But now the church is fighting back, claiming the judgment was obtained through "fraud upon the court."
"The judgment was entered based upon false, incomplete, and misleading evidence," FLDS attorney Rod Parker wrote in the 42-page lawsuit.
The FLDS's lawsuit alleges that Wisan misrepresented to the court the property values, transactions, and claims the UEP trust may have had over personal property. Wisan has said that property was being taken from the FLDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
When contacted by the Deseret News on Friday night, Wisan's attorney, Jeffrey L. Shields, declined to comment on the lawsuit until he had a chance to review it.
In 2005, a judge took control of the UEP Trust amid allegations that Jeffs and other FLDS leaders had mismanaged it. The trust controls homes, businesses and property in the FLDS communities.
For years, FLDS leaders and members have refused to cooperate with the fiduciary and court-ordered reforms. That is now changing, with recent courtroom challenges to trust reforms.
"A lot of things are changing with the church," Parker told the Deseret News. "They recognize that this is being used as an implement of destruction of the church, and this pushes them beyond the breaking point. They have to defend themselves or be destroyed as an institution."
While it is too late to appeal the judge's ruling granting the fiduciary a default judgment, Parker said they can sue to challenge it."It's such a direct attack on the church that they just can't stand by and let it happen," he said.