Polygamists in British Columbia are part of U.S. probe

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2000

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- A polygamous community in southern British Columbia is part of a U.S. probe into the arranged marriages of underage American girls.

In Utah last week, Ron Barton was hired by the state attorney general's office to investigate tax evasion, welfare fraud, child sexual abuse, domestic abuse and other crimes in ''closed societies,'' such as tax protest groups, white supremacist organizations and polygamist sects.

One of the largest of the polygamist sects is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located primarily in Hildale, Utah, and neighboring Colorado City, Ariz. It has an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 members.

The sect has an enclave at Lister, British Columbia, with 800 to 1,000 members.

Ex-members of the sect and a child advocacy group have asked Utah authorities to investigate the movement of young girls between Arizona, Utah and British Columbia.

They say the arranged marriages are increasing because the church's leader has predicted that the end of the world is near.

The Lister enclave is headed by businessman Winston Blackmore, 44, who has 30 wives and 80 children, The Vancouver Province newspaper reported.

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