Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Welcome to the new KNPR.org!

If you have questions, feedback, or encounter issues as you explore, please fill out our Feedback Form.

Investigation Finds Ties Between Construction Company And FLDS Church

colorado_city_az.jpg

Colorado City, Arizona is a one half of twin cities where the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located. The church is behind a concrete business, which services Las Vegas, that investigation found used questionable practices.  

A construction company in operation throughout the southwest – including here in Nevada – is a major backer of Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based in Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah.

That's according to a new investigation by the Salt Lake Tribune, which also says the company underpays its employees, many of whom are teenagers.

The FLDS Church is a conservative offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It believes polygamy is central to spiritual life, and its current prophet, Warren Jeffs, is in prison for life plus 20 years after taking multiple, underage girls as brides.

Nate Carlisle with the Salt Lake Tribune investigated the connection and wrote the story about it for Monday's tribune.

Carlisle told KNPR's State of Nevada that for years there had been questions about how the FLDS church made its money. He said Phaze construction had been part of that conversation. 

Carlisle investigated for seven months, finding former employees and business records for the company, which merged with Jack Daniel's Construction.

According to Carlisle's article, at one point, the head of Phaze Construction was donating $100,000 a month to the church in Texas, where Jeffs committed the crimes he is in prison for. 

Phaze's accountant was Jeff's brother.

"They weren't hiding it but they weren't promoting it either," Carlisle said. "Based on the interviews and the records I've seen it looks like it's tough to separate the two" 

But Phaze has never been charged with a crime and has only been in trouble with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for minor safety violations.

"The company said they do not break any laws," Carlisle said. "They don't necessarily deny some of the more specific questions but they're very adamant that they don't break any laws."

One former employee Carlisle talked to said he worked for the company when he was just 15 years old. He told the reporter that sometimes he worked 13 hours a day, "but the company took half of his paycheck and sent it directly to the FLDS Church," the reporter said.

Carlisle is not sure if regulators have looked at those specific allegations. but the Department of Labor investigated the company for possibly violating child labor laws, but they haven't been able to substantiate the claims. 

"It always comes down to witnesses and documentation and that's very tough to find in the FLDS," Carlisle said.

Carlisle said that many employees who were paid very low wages or had their paychecks siphoned off to the church agreed to it because they believed the money was being used to build up the priesthood, which they believe is God's authority on earth.

"They believe their salvation is tied to holding the priesthood and Warren Jeffs and his brothers have the power to take away that salvation," Carlisle said.

Employees also didn't want to lose their families. The FLDS church has a reputation of kicking out men and teenage boys. 

Carlisle doubts the federal government will go after the company based on what was reported in his story, "does the government want to spend all this time and effort to go pursue something that isn't necessarily going to draw a big fine?"

He does believe general contractors will take a second look before handing out contracts to Phaze, which stands for priesthood and Zion eternally, because of his investigation.  

 

Nate Carlisle, Salt Lake Tribune

Stay Connected
Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.
Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)