SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on the arrests of several leaders from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect (all times local):
Three of the 11 people accused in what prosecutors say was a multi-million-dollar food stamp fraud scheme orchestrated by polygamous leaders have pleaded not guilty in southern Utah.
The Spectrum of St. George reports (http://bit.ly/1XNlnRH) that two women and a man appeared in court for the first time Wednesday.
A lawyer for one, 55-year-old Kristal Meldrum Dutson, says she is a hardworking mother of 15 with no criminal record.
A total of 11 people have been accused of diverting at least $12 million worth of federal benefits by telling hundreds of members to buy things and give them to a church warehouse or using the food stamps in sect-owned stores without actually getting anything in return.
Two group leaders have also pleaded not guilty. Five of those indicted have not yet been arrested.
Two polygamous sect leaders in Utah are pleading not guilty to orchestrating what prosecutors call a wide-ranging food-stamp fraud scheme.
Lyle Jeffs entered the plea Wednesday during his first court appearance in Salt Lake City, wearing a jail jumpsuit and looking somber. A judge ordered him to stay in jail and scheduled a hearing for March 7 to discuss whether he'll be released as the case plays out.
Jeffs is one of 11 charged in a crackdown that marked a serious blow for the group based on the Utah-Arizona border. Another defendant, John Wayman, also pleaded not guilty. He will remain in custody until at least a hearing Friday.
Prosecutors want all 11 people kept behind bars.
Other defendants are scheduled to make appearances in St. George, Utah, and Custer County, South Dakota.
Several leaders from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect are expected to make their initial court appearances Wednesday after their arrests on federal allegations of food stamp fraud and money laundering.
The suspects were arrested Tuesday on accusations of orchestrating a yearslong fraud scheme instructing members how to use food-stamp benefits illegally for the benefit of the faith and avoid getting caught.
U.S. attorneys say 11 people were charged, including Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs. They are top-ranking leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and brothers of imprisoned sect leader Warren Jeffs.
The charges are the government's latest move targeting the sect based on the Utah-Arizona border, coinciding with legal battles over child labor and discrimination against nonbelievers.
U.S. Attorney John Huber says: "This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud."