Hildale • Hyrum Dutson wasn't surprised when Lyle Jeffs, his former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints bishop, decided to flee from the law.

"If he wants to go, he can go," Dutson said. "I don't believe the court holds jurisdiction over him. He's a bishop. His boss is [FLDS Church President] Warren Steed Jeffs — nobody else."

"I didn't expect him to stay," Dutson added. "If he stayed, that was his business."

Lyle Jeffs slipped his ankle monitor late on June 18 or early June 19 while awaiting a federal trial for alleged food stamp fraud. Almost a year later, he remains at large.

"We are actively utilizing investigative techniques to find Mr. Jeffs," said Eric Barnhart, the special agent in charge at the FBI's Salt Lake City field office.

In an interview Wednesday, Barnhart acknowledged those techniques include seeking the people with whom Lyle Jeffs might be traveling and watching locations associated with the FLDS.

But Barnhart also said the FBI hopes Lyle Jeffs' reduced role with the FLDS might work against him. Communications intercepted from Warren Jeffs at a Texas prison indicate the church president removed his brother as bishop shortly after he absconded.

"He may have a much smaller network," Barnhart said. "Places of hiding may not be available to him that were available to his brother."

Warren Jeffs was on the FBI's list of most wanted fugitives from May 2006 until his capture at a traffic stop near Las Vegas that August. Even with a diminished network, Lyle Jeffs and any supporters may use some of the same tradecraft used to hide Warren Jeffs, Barnhart said.

That could include wearing disguises, moving from hiding spot to hiding spot, circumventing cellphone tracking by using prepaid phones and calling from multiple locations, and frequently changing vehicles.

There also is a reward of up to $50,000. Barnhart said tips have dwindled since the reward was offered in August.

Lyle Jeffs was the bishop of the FLDS' traditional home in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., collectively called Short Creek, and the man running the day-to-day operations of the sect when he and 10 other FLDS members were arrested in February 2016. All 11 had been indicted on two felony counts — attempt to defraud the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and attempt to launder money.

Federal prosecutors allege Lyle Jeffs and the co-defendants defrauded what is commonly called the food stamp program by ordering FLDS members to give food purchased through the program to the church or by converting those benefits to cash. Prosecutors and the FBI said the fraud totaled $12 million.

Over objections from prosecutors and the FBI, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart released Lyle Jeffs to house arrest in Salt Lake County pending trial. There is a federal warrant for his arrest.

Since he absconded, Lyle Jeffs' co-defendants have settled their cases. Two defendants pleaded guilty to one felony. Eight others, including Dutson, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. None received jail time, supervision or was ordered to pay restitution.

The lead prosecutor on those cases, Robert Lund, has said no such offer will be made to Lyle Jeffs.

None of that has diminished the FBI's desire to find Lyle Jeffs, Barnhart said.

"We don't consider him just a run-of-the-mill white-collar-crime fraudster," he said, "because his control over this organization was much greater than we see in other white-collar-crime suspects."

Barnhart sees little chance of Lyle Jeffs ever being a most-wanted fugitive like his brother. Those spots usually are reserved for people accused of violent crimes or the heads of cartels.

In 2006, Warren Jeffs was charged in Utah with being an accomplice to rape. The Utah Supreme Court overturned that conviction, but Warren Jeffs was later convicted in Texas of charges relating to sexually abusing two girls he married as plural wives. He is serving a sentence of life in prison plus 20 years.

Court documents in the fraud cases show the FBI found evidence Lyle Jeffs was in Short Creek in July interviewing FLDS members to determine their status in the church when he and Warren Jeffs had a falling-out.

If Lyle Jeffs' role within the FLDS is diminished, it may be news to some church members.

"I don't know where he is, and I don't know whether his calling is changed or not," said FLDS member Norma Richter, "and it doesn't really matter to me. A person that's honorable is always going to be honorable, and from all the experience I've ever had with him, he's always going to be honorable."

Richter said she doesn't even know the charges Lyle Jeffs faces. Whatever they are, she believes they are just another way for the government to persecute Warren Jeffs.

"They're going to all blame it back on Uncle Warren," she said. " 'He's the one that did it. He's the one that started it.' And it's all nonsense."

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune l-r Lyle Jeffs, believed to be the FLDS bishop in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, and Nephi Jeffs appeared in U. S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Both men, who are Warren Jeffs' brothers, have been served subpoenas in a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit against Paragon Contractors, that provided labor for the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch near Hurricane. Both businesses are owned by members of the FLDS. Labor department investigators, according to court documents, believe that as many as 1,400 school-age children and their parents participated in the harvest.
Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune l-r Lyle Jeffs, believed to be the FLDS bishop in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, and Nephi Jeffs appeared in U. S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Both men, who are Warren Jeffs' brothers, have been served subpoenas in a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit against Paragon Contractors, that provided labor for the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch near Hurricane. Both businesses are owned by members of the FLDS. Labor department investigators, according to court documents, believe that as many as 1,400 school-age children and their parents participated in the harvest.
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, brothers of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, Lyle, foreground, and Nephi, leave the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. Though Warren Jeffs been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006, he is believed to still rule the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints through letters and phone calls from prison. Lyle Jeffs makes sure Jeffs' commandments are carried out. To his followers, roughly estimated to be about 6,000, he is a prophet who speaks for God and can do no wrong. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, brothers of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, Lyle, foreground, and Nephi, leave the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. Though Warren Jeffs been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006, he is believed to still rule the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints through letters and phone calls from prison. Lyle Jeffs makes sure Jeffs' commandments are carried out. To his followers, roughly estimated to be about 6,000, he is a prophet who speaks for God and can do no wrong. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. Polygamous sect leader Jeffs is being let out of jail pending trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 9, 2016 granted Jeffs' latest request to be released, citing the fact that the other 10 defendants already out have complied with conditions set by the court. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. Polygamous sect leader Jeffs is being let out of jail pending trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 9, 2016 granted Jeffs' latest request to be released, citing the fact that the other 10 defendants already out have complied with conditions set by the court. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015, file photo, high-ranking polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse, in Salt Lake City. Polygamous sect leader Jeffs is being let out of jail pending trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 9, 2016 granted Jeffs' latest request to be released, citing the fact that the other 10 defendants already out have complied with conditions set by the court. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015, file photo, high-ranking polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs leaves the federal courthouse, in Salt Lake City. Polygamous sect leader Jeffs is being let out of jail pending trial on accusations he helped orchestrate a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 9, 2016 granted Jeffs' latest request to be released, citing the fact that the other 10 defendants already out have complied with conditions set by the court. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart announces that the FBI is now offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the fugitive Lyle Steed Jeffs during a press conference at the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office in Salt Lake City Monday August 29, 2016.
Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart announces that the FBI is now offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the fugitive Lyle Steed Jeffs during a press conference at the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office in Salt Lake City Monday August 29, 2016.
Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart announces that the FBI is now offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the fugitive Lyle Steed Jeffs during a press conference at the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office in Salt Lake City Monday August 29, 2016.
Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart announces that the FBI is now offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the fugitive Lyle Steed Jeffs during a press conference at the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office in Salt Lake City Monday August 29, 2016.
Courtesy | FBI Lyle Steed Jeffs is wanted for fleeing from home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the weekend of June 18 to June 19, 2016.
Courtesy | FBI Lyle Steed Jeffs is wanted for fleeing from home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the weekend of June 18 to June 19, 2016.
Courtesy | FBI Lyle Steed Jeffs is wanted for fleeing from home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the weekend of June 18 to June 19, 2016.
Courtesy | FBI Lyle Steed Jeffs is wanted for fleeing from home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the weekend of June 18 to June 19, 2016.
Courtesy | FBI Lyle Steed Jeffs is wanted for fleeing from home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the weekend of June 18 to June 19, 2016.
Courtesy | FBI Lyle Steed Jeffs is wanted for fleeing from home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the weekend of June 18 to June 19, 2016.