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Polygamists in Summit County?

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff isn’t sure exactly how many polygamists live in Summit County.

"There are polygamists who live here," Shurtleff told The Park Record after speaking to the Sunrise Rotary Thursday in Jeremy Ranch. "The ones I know up here are affiliated with the Kingstons."

According to Shurtleff, members of the Kingston family, who operate one of Utah’s most notorious criminal enterprises, engage routinely in tax evasion and welfare fraud.

"They call it ‘bleed the beast’ — the government being the ‘beast,’" Shurtleff said, adding that the group owns businesses in roughly 20 states. "From coin-operated machines to waste-management companies."

Racketeering accusations have been leveled against several polygamists, he added.

"Behind the scenes are these white-collar, financial crimes," Shurtleff said, adding that a prophet can wield more power than a mafia boss. "[The mafia] often rule by threat of, you’ll be killed [the prophet] has control over their eternal lives."

Polygamists living in Summit County, however, are "more moderate," Shurtleff said.

Many aren’t affiliated with a specific polygamous sect, he said, adding, "we can’t paint all polygamists with one broad brush."

Shurtleff admitted he enjoys watching "Big Love" a program on HBO that depicts fictitious polygamists living on the Wasatch Front.

"I’m actually happy that it’s talking about everything," he said, adding that episodes have accurately portrayed the emotional strife those in polygamous relationships can endure. "They have brought in the Warren Jeffs character, child-bride marriage."

Though marriage of underage girls to men is now rare among polygamous sects, incest is rampant in the communities, Shurtleff said.

"They have to inter-marry, first cousins, aunts, uncles," he added.

The fugitive, Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints leader Warren Jeffs, stands accused of felonies involving children and has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

"A lot of people are wondering, why is Warren Jeffs — a polygamist leader over a small group of 10,000 or so in southern Utah [and] northern Arizona — why would he be on the list with Osama bin Laden?" Shurtleff said, adding that Jeffs oversees one of the largest polygamist churches in North America. "You don’t have to be a murderer to be on that list."

Felony rape and flight to avoid prosecution are among the charges Jeffs faces in Utah, he added.

"With Warren Jeffs, he’s got a whole group supporting him and hiding him but he’ll be found," Shurtleff said. "We just hope it goes peacefully, although, we’re not sure it will."

Internet: ‘candy store’ for criminals

"Identity theft really has been our number one criminal priority because it continues to be the fastest growing crime in the world," Shurtleff told the Rotarians. "Everybody knows somebody now who has been a victim of identity theft."

Shredding financial records and documents that contain personal information like Social Security numbers and birth dates is critical, he warned.

"They go through your trash and pull out all those offers for credit lines that you get and just toss in the garbage," Shurtleff said. "Don’t just tear in half your credit offers."

ID thieves also "shoulder surf," he added.

"They’ll follow you around and get close to you while you’re giving your information to clerks, tellers, whatever," Shurtleff explained. "We’re in a different world folks, our identity has changed substantially We’re just a bunch of data."


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