SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In the mid-2000s, a branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) — a radical offshoot of the Mormon church which split off in 1930 after the main church (LDS) officially disavowed the practice of polygamy — settled into the southern Black Hills, building out a compound dubbed R23 about 5 miles west of Argyle, South Dakota.
In 2016, Seth Jeffs, and FLDS leader and brother of church prophet Warren Jeffs (who is currently serving life in a Texas prison for sexually abusing children he took as his ‘wives’), was arrested just south of the compound, traveling on a highway with a group of several women.
Seth Jeffs was charged and convicted of defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), along with another of his brothers, FLDS Bishop Lyle Jeffs, who himself was arrested in Yankton by the FBI in June in 2017 after fleeing authorities.
After taking a plea deal, Seth Jeffs spent a total of 6-months behind bars, being released in December 2016. Since then the polygamous leader has been busy.
According to Custer County records, the FLDS lost ownership of the R23 compound on July 17, 2020. The compound was later sold at a sheriff’s auction to three former ‘apostate’ members of the FLDS, Andrew Chatwin, Patrick Pipkin and Claude Seth Cooke, in 2021 for $750k.
In 2022, the property was listed for sale by Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC, which represents Chatwin, Pipkin and Cooke, with a price tag of nearly $7 million. The compound sat on the market, and in May 2023, the realtor for the property told KELOLAND News that the property had been split into several sections which are under contract with a buyer.
Just prior to losing the compound in the Black Hills, Seth Jeffs, through Emerald Industries, LLC, purchased 40 acres of land at a cost of $54,000 in Cook County, Minnesota. According to Cook County records, this property, located in the woods west of Grand Marais, was purchased on August 7, 2018.
Emerald Industries began some work on the property, having applied for a permit to build a 5,760-square-foot building on the land, but a cease and desist order was filed due to wetland violation. The permits have expired, and while imagery of the site shows construction, it appears no new work has occurred.
On July 1, 2020, just weeks before the FLDS lost ownership of the Black Hills compound, Seth Jeffs made another purchase, this time in rural Menomonie, Wisconsin.
According to Dunn County records, Jeffs purchased 80.5 acres of land west of Menomonie, a small city located between Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Minneapolis. Records show Seth Jeffs paid a total of $450k for the 3 sections of land.
KELOLAND News has been in touch with Dunn County in search of additional records.