CUSTER COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — The compound previously owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) has a new owner.
In 2021, the compound was purchased at auction by three men: Andrew Chatwin, Patrick Pipkin and Claude Seth Cooke. The three are said to be former members of the FLDS who were awarded a $2 million judgement following a property dispute with the FLDS in the sect’s home base community of Short Creek, made up of two towns, Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, straddling the state line.
The three men purchased the property under the ownership of Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC, which is based in Colorado, but lists its mailing address in Hildale, UT.
In 2022, Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC listed the property for sale, asking just shy of $7 million. The property sat on the market before KELOLAND News uncovered in May 2023 that the property was under contract with a buyer.
On May 24, 2023, KELOLAND News received a copy of the warranty deed for the property, which was sold at a price of $5,237,475 by Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC to SDR Training Center, a non-profit church registered in South Dakota on May 16, 2023.
In the initial filing for SDR Training Center, three directors are listed: Hyrum Keddington, Jewel Stone and LaDonna Nichols.
Keddington’s address is listed as 11584 Farmer Rd, Custer, South Dakota; the address of the compound, while the address listed for Stone and Nichols is an office building in Salt Lake City.
KELOLAND News was also provided with copies of mortgage paperwork for the property, signed by Keddington.
The mortgage, dated May 19, records a private loan for $3,437,475. The lender is Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC, and borrower is the church, SDR Training Center.
KELOLAND News reached out to a mortgage broker on May 26 for insight and were told private loans of this sort are not uncommon, especially for churches, who the broker said often have trouble securing loans.
What did stand out as highly unusual to the broker was the 0% interest rate on the loan. This type of loan we were told is generally provided at a very high interest rate. The broker said such an occurrence suggested to them there may be a relationship between the parties.
KELOLAND News has not been able to verify the existence of SDR Training Center before May 16, 2023, but according to the mortgage agreement, the church will be responsible for making 120 monthly payments of $21,000 to Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC, beginning on June 18, 2023.
SDR Training Center did not turn up in a search of tax exempt organizations within the IRS database.
At the end of the term of 120 months following the completion of mortgage payments, SDR Training Center will pay a final balloon payment of $917,475 to Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC.
Another document obtained by KELOLAND News lists the preparer of the mortgage as American Federal Corporation, a company registered in Las Vegas, NV, but which has its offices in Salt Lake City.