Polygamists Accused Of Fraud Claim Religious Rights
Polygamous sect members accused of participating in a multimillion food stamp fraud scheme will try to persuade a judge Tuesday they were following a religiously rooted tenet that calls for communal type living.
Federal prosecutors counter that the defendants knowingly broke the law by not only donating food to a storehouse but diverting funds to front companies and to pay for a tractor, truck and other items. They say sect leaders lived lavishly while low-ranking followers suffered.
The suspects aren't required to testify at the hearing, but are supposed to be in the courtroom in Salt Lake City. They have pleaded not guilty to food stamp fraud and money laundering.
Defense attorneys want U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart to throw out at least part of the case based on the argument their client's actions were constitutionally protected.