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Warren Jeffs, FLDS leaders re-file fraud lawsuit against Bruce Wisan

Published March 26, 2013 5:02 pm

Courts • Lawsuit was originally filed in 2008, seeking to recoup an $8.8 million default judgement.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Leaders of Warren Jeffs' church have re-filed a lawsuit accusing the man appointed to run a controversial polygamous trust of fraud.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in 3rd District Court by attorneys representing the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the "Corporation of the Presiding Bishop" of the church and leaders including Jeffs. It names Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan and others as defendants.

A judge appointed Wisan to oversee the United Effort Plan, a trust that was created by the FLDS church but which was taken over by the state in 2005 due to concerns about mismanagement.

The lawsuit aims to set aside an $8.8 million default judgement Wisan won in 2007. Wisan won the judgement, the lawsuit alleges, "based upon false, incomplete, and misleading evidence" that he presented at a hearing.

Rodney Parker, an attorney representing the FLDS church and other plaintiffs, said Tuesday that the lawsuit was a re-filing of an earlier case. That case was filed in 2008 but was put on ice while attorneys worked on various other legal issues surrounding the UEP. Last year, Parker said, the case was dismissed for failure to prosecute.

The FLDS church then had one year to re-file the case, which Parker said he did to protect the position of his clients. Parker did not say Tuesday if, or when, the case might move forward. Instead, he explained, this latest filing merely gives his clients the option to move forward in the future if they want to.

Wisan had not yet finished reviewing the re-filed case Tuesday and consequently declined to comment on it directly.

But he did call the allegations from the original lawsuit "baseless," saying he presented expert witnesses and legal documents, among other things, at the time he obtained the judgement.

According to the lawsuit, Wisan used part of the judgement to acquire Harker Farms in Beryl, in Iron County. Wisan confirmed that he acquired the farm by offering part of the $8.8 million judgement, a process often known as "credit bidding."

The lawsuit states that the farm was a "substantial asset" of the FLDS Corporation of the Presiding Bishop and alleges that Wisan acquired it "for less than its value."

However, Wisan said other people in the area also bid on it and he simply placed the highest bid. Wisan also said that he has not yet claimed about half of the $8.8 million judgement.

The judgement is not related to $5.6 million the state legislature recently agreed to pay Wisan for years of uncompensated work on the trust. That money will be disbursed over the course of a year and for the most part must be repaid to the state.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii