SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court has ruled that a polygamist sect on the Utah/Arizona border waited too long to challenge a court-ordered takeover of its community finances.

The decision means a court-appointed accountant is free to redistribute assets held by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to residents of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

In Monday's decision, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned U.S. District Judge Dee Benson in Salt Lake City.

Benson ruled nearly two years ago that Utah's takeover violated the faith's constitutional rights.

The Denver-based appeals court overruled Benson on procedural grounds, saying the FLDS waited too long — three years — to file action.

State authorities are now free to break up the church trust that owns homes, businesses and farms in the border towns.