Public records in an ongoing South Dakota criminal case indicate that a Black Hills compound occupied by a secretive polygamous sect is now overseen by the nephew of the compound’s former leader.

Two men from Colorado who are apparently unaffiliated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are accused of a January 2018 burglary and theft at the FLDS compound in Custer County. One of the men faces additional charges for drugs and guns he allegedly possessed when he was caught.

The main witness in those criminal cases is Helaman Jeffs, who testified at an April 2018 preliminary hearing.

During that hearing, he was asked about his role at the compound.

“I’ve been called upon to secure the place and make sure nothing is taken or messed with unless it is done by proper authority,” Jeffs said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Jeffs also said during the hearing that he is the nephew of Seth Jeffs, who formerly oversaw the compound and is still the registered operator of the compound’s water system.

Seth Jeffs is a brother of Warren Jeffs, the notorious leader of the FLDS who has been serving a lifetime prison sentence in Texas since 2011 for sexually assaulting underage girls. In 2006, Seth Jeffs was convicted of harboring a fugitive for his role in helping Warren Jeffs avoid arrest.

In December 2016, Seth Jeffs pleaded guilty in a food-stamp fraud case that ensnared multiple FLDS members. He was released from jail after receiving credit for the six months he served prior to his plea.

It was also in 2016 that Helaman Jeffs was sent to the South Dakota compound, according to his testimony in the Custer County burglary-theft cases.

Since the resolution of the food-stamp case, Seth Jeffs’ whereabouts had been a subject of speculation until this past January. That month, Minnesota media outlets identified Seth Jeffs as the registered agent for a company that bought 40 acres of land in northern Minnesota, where he also obtained a permit for an as-yet unconstructed 5,760-square-foot building.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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Enterprise Reporter

Enterprise reporter for the Rapid City Journal and author of "Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills."