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How a Polygamist Leader Used Olive Oil to Escape House Arrest

"He used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the GPS tracking band and slip it off his ankle."

by Alex Swerdloff
Jul 12 2016, 10:00pm

Photo via Flickr user donireewalker

Olive oil.

If one were to attempt to encapsulate the entirety of the Mediterranean into a single, all-encompassing emissary, olive oil would unequivocally be said token. In a staggeringly varied region, with as many cultures and creeds as there are stars in the sky, olive oil is just about as close as you get to an omnipresent deity.

It also happens to make for one hell of a stylish prison break.

A few weeks ago, Lyle Jeffs, the polygamous leader of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, made headlines when it was discovered that he had somehow managed to escape from home confinement following a delay in his trial. While it's not really the focus of what we're talking about today, Jeffs was arrested and was to be tried for a pretty nuts multimillion-dollar case of fraud he allegedly committed involving a food stamp scheme. (Just the sort of behavior you'd expect from a free-loving bishop who was once fined for employing child labor in a pecan harvest. But that's an entirely different story…)

READ MORE: A Phony Archbishop Is Selling Olive Oil as a Cancer Cure

Speculation as to how Jeffs managed to escape confinement and elude authorities abounded. Was Jeffs somehow the inspiration for The Prestige? Is he just Wentworth Miller in a wig? Luckily, the FBI have now revealed what they believe to be the methodology Lyle Jeffs used to escape home imprisonment—and it's pretty damn spectacular.

"He used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the GPS tracking band and slip it off his ankle. The damage to the bracelet was not such to trigger the full array of alarms that law enforcement or the US Marshal's Service would have responded to," says Special Agent Eric Barnhart, the man in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City field office. Barnhart was recently interviewed by FOX 13, the local Fox affiliate, and told them the following: "Checks were done with Mr. Jeffs and at some point on the 18th, to a satisfactory level the bracelet was still intact where it was supposed to be. The evening hours, though, that changed. Attempts were made to contact him to no avail. The next day he was found to be missing."

Jeffs had been confined to a property in northwest Salt Lake City. Other members of the church—wearing the traditional prairie dresses for girls and long-sleeved shirts for boys—live there. According to one Anthony Thomasson, "a lot of polygamists coming and going," could be seen at the location.

READ MORE: An Escaped Inmate Turned Himself in by Showing Up at a Bar and Drinking a Beer

But not Lyle Jeffs, at least not anymore. He lubed his way out of that ankle bracelet and is now being sought by the FBI.

Would a polygamist use extra-virgin? These and other questions remain unanswered. We may never know the details of this unusual escape, but we can say that this man—who has a predilection for allegedly committing food-related crimes—certainly knows how to use olive oil to his advantage.