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Texas officials take steps to seize polygamist sect's ranch

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas officials on Wednesday filed legal documents to seize a 1,600-acre West Texas ranch where officials say jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs sexually assaulted children.

The state attorney general's office filed a search and seizure warrant and an affidavit in state District Court in Schleicher County over the YFZ (Yearning for Zion) Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The attorney general's office says Jeffs had sought a remote location for a polygamist compound where he and other members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints could sexually assault children without interference from law enforcement.

Jeffs, 56, is in prison in Texas after being sentenced to life plus 20 years in 2011 on sexual assault convictions related to his marriages with two underage sect girls. Despite incarceration, Jeffs is said to remain in control of the sect.

The sect practices polygamy in arranged marriages and has an estimated 10,000 followers in North America. It shares religious roots with the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream Mormon church denounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah's statehood and does not affiliate with the FLDS or any other polygamist sect.

The state of Utah has taken over the assets of a communal land trust once run by Jeffs, and a federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that the trust should not be turned back to sect leaders.

(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune and Maureen Bavdek)

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