Leaders of FLDS Sect Charged with Polygamy, Transporting 'Child Brides' Between U.S. and Canada

Two leaders of the racist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), who have followers in Boundary County, Idaho, and in nearby Bountiful, British Columbia, have been charged again with practicing polygamy. 

Winston Kaye Blackmore, 57, and James Marion Oler, 49, were first charged in 2009, but those charges were dropped after a judge ruled a special prosecutor in the case had been hired improperly. But a judge ruled that Canada’s anti-polygamy law is valid and does not violate the group’s religious freedom, allowing the charges to be filed again last week.

The sect’s leader, Warren Jeffs, who has issued written orders to church members while serving a prison term in the United States for sexual offenses against young girls, has preached that black people are the descendants of Cain, “cursed with black skin” and selected by God to be the "servants" of white people.

Earlier this year, a jury in Phoenix returned a record $5.2 million award against the sect after concluding the twin cities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah – a combined community known as “Short Creek” -- engaged in a pattern of religious discrimination and intimidation.

Now, in the newly filed indictment in Canada, Blackmore and Oler, who head different FLDS factions, are each charged with one count of polygamy. Two other members of the sect, Blackmore’s brother, Brandon Blackmore and his wife, Emily Ruth Gail Crossfield, are charged with child sex trafficking for offenses that allegedly occurred in February 2004.

The maximum penalty for both offences — polygamy and unlawful removal — is up to five years in prison.

All four are expected to make their first appearances on the charges on Oct. 9 in Provincial Court in Creston, British Columbia, where the charges were filed last Wednesday.

The charges allege polygamy and the unlawful removal of children under the age of 16 years from Canada to the United States “with the intention” that sexual acts would be committed.

The mainstream LDS church renounced polygamy in 1890 to allow Utah to gain statehood. The church denounces the FLDS movement, even though plural marriage theology remains in its “doctrine and covenants.”

A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told The Spokesman-Review in 2009 that modern-day Mormons “have nothing whatsoever to do with this polygamous sect.”

A special prosecutor in Canada began an investigation in January 2012 following an the discovery in Texas that Jeffs and his FLDS group were involved in sexual abuse of children. Evidence in the Texas case revealed 31 girls between the ages of 12 and17 were alleged to have been transported by their parents between Canada and the United States for religious marriages over a 10-year period.

Daphne Bramham, an author and columnist for the Vancouver Sun who has written extensively about the FLDS faction in Canada, wrote that Canadian investigators received copies of Jeffs’ dairies.

In those writings, “Jeffs detailed how some Bountiful men snuck their often unsuspecting daughters and sisters into the U.S. for arranged marriages and how many of the men returned with teenage American brides — with no consideration of either country’s immigration laws,” Bramham wrote.

Charging documents allege Oler delivered his two underage sisters to Jeffs in 2004. The following year, after witnessing the marriage of his 15-year-old daughter in Nevada, the 41-year-old Oler “collected a 15-year-old bride of his own” and took her from the United States back to the polygamous community called Bountiful, near Creston, B.C.

The Attorney General’s Ministry also filed documents confirming that a 13-year-old girl and two 12-year-olds from Bountiful became Jeffs’ brides after their parents – including Brandon Blackmore and Crossfield – delivered them to him in 2004 and 2005, Bramham wrote.