|Agencies raid fire stations|
Officers swarm facilities in Colorado City, Hildale seeking financial records
By JIM SECKLER|
Mohave Daily News
KINGMAN — More than two dozen law enforcement officers from two states raided four fire stations and two homes Tuesday morning in Colorado City and Hildale, Utah.
The search involved three fire stations in Colorado City and one fire station in Hildale, Utah. Also searched were the homes of Colorado City Fire Chief Jake Barlow and Colorado City Manager David Darger.
Investigators from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and the Mohave County Attorney’s Office participated in the search. The search warrant for the Hildale fire station was issued by the Washington County Superior Court.
Investigators searched the fire station’s computers and financial records and financial records discovered at the two homes. The investigation looked into misuse of public funds for personal use in connection with the fire departments and the city government, Sheriff Tom Sheahan said.
The search also involved the misuse of the fire department’s credit cards. No arrests were made Tuesday in the searches but possible arrests may be made in the future, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said.
Barlow declined to comment but expressed concern over the records being taken.
"The fire department wants to do the very best they can for the citizens and wants to help them," Barlow said. "Now all of their records are being exposed ... we have protected medical histories on thousands of patients — all in the name of the county attorney’s office investigation."
Darger, who also serves as secretary-treasurer of the fire department, was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
"It’s about time somebody did something about the nightmare up there," said former FLDS member Flora Jessop, who now lives in Phoenix and serves as the executive director of the Child Protection Project. "I’m really proud of Mohave County for stepping in. It’s been a long time coming. I hope to see some prosecution come out of this."
The Colorado City Fire Department covers about 450 square miles in the Arizona Strip area of Mohave County covering the communities of Colorado City, Cane Beds, Kaibab and Moccasin. The fire department consists of volunteers, including about a half-dozen employees.
The Mohave County Attorney’s Office also is currently charging Warren Jeffs, 54, the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with four counts of sexual conduct with a minor in two 2007 Arizona cases. He is charged with being an accomplice of two men who had sex with two underage girls, which allegedly took place in 2002 and 2003 in the polygamist communities of Colorado City and Hildale. He already was convicted in Utah on similar charges and serving a 10-year prison term.
Management of the twin towns and the FLDS have been under increasing scrutiny since 2005, following allegations of an increase in underage marriages and misuse of a church property trust.
Also in 2005, records from the Colorado City Unified School District were seized and the district was taken over by Arizona. No charges based on allegations of financial mismanagement ever were brought against FLDS members who oversaw the district, which is again under local control.
The FLDS founded the twin towns in the mid-20th century, and its members make up the majority of residents, operate most businesses and work in all levels of city government and services.
FLDS members practice polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon church. Mainstream Mormons denounced the practice in the 1890s.
The group is engaged in a protracted legal battle with the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona for control of the $110 million church trust.
On April 4, 2008, Texas authorities raided an FLDS ranch in Eldorado. More than 430 children were temporarily in state custody after the raid, which also resulted in the filing of criminal charges adjacent a dozen sect men, including Jeffs.
Staff writer Bridget Lewison and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Originally published Wednesday, April 7, 2010
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