SALT LAKE CITY — A pair of pawn shop workers who provided a key tip that helped authorities capture a fugitive polygamous sect leader will split a $50,000 reward from the FBI, the agency revealed Monday.
The FBI commended the men for writing down the license plate of the truck that Lyle Jeffs was driving when he stopped to sell tools and didn’t take off his hat and sunglasses.
Jeffs was arrested last month in a lakeside area near the South Dakota-Nebraska border after a year on the lam.
The men, whose names were withheld by the FBI to protect their privacy, will split the reward based on their level of assistance.
Kevin Haug, owner of River City Treasures and Pawn in Yankton, South Dakota, said he understands that he and a former employee are the recipients but was awaiting confirmation from the FBI.
Haug said he plans to use his portion of the reward to pay for college for two sons who are studying at the University of Nebraska. One plans to be a high school teacher and the other a mechanical engineer.
Haug downplayed his role in the arrest, saying he “just made a phone call.”
He said his role made him well-known in Yankton and forced him to talk with a lot of people. But he’s not complaining.
“Free advertising is free advertising,” he said.
He said the employee who became suspicious and went online to learn the identity of the customer has since quit over safety concerns.
The FBI offered the reward after Jeffs escaped from home confinement in Salt Lake City a year ago while awaiting trial in a food-stamp fraud case. Leads from the public led nowhere until Jeffs stopped at the pawn shop to sell two sets of pliers.
An off-duty Yankton police detective arrested Jeffs after spotting him going into a bathroom at a marina-resort on picturesque Lewis and Clark Lake.
Authorities believe Jeffs had been in the area for about two weeks living out of his truck.
He’s a member of a group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based in a small community on the Utah-Arizona border.
The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.
Jeffs is back in custody in Utah and facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted on a failure-to-appear charge. Counts of benefits fraud and money laundering carry possible 5- and 10-year sentences.