Polygamist Samuel Bateman has been accused of child abuse and obstruction of justice
Fundamentalist Mormon cult leader Samuel Bateman had 20 wives, including numerous minors, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing the FBI. Bateman, who allegedly married his own daughter, believed that he was "a prophet," according to US media.
The man was charged with child abuse in August, when Arizona authorities discovered him driving with three young girls in a locked cargo trailer near the city of Flagstaff. He was also hit with obstruction charges for deleting messages on his phone while he was pulled over, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in September.
Bateman's legal problems spiraled when FBI agents raided several of his properties, with child welfare officials taking nine underage girls into custody. According to an affidavit filed by the FBI on Friday and seen by the Salt Lake Tribune, the agency has probable cause to believe that he trafficked some of these minors across state lines to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
According to Arizona law enforcement officers, who have been conducting interviews with Bateman's extended family and neighbors since 2020, Bateman "began to proclaim he was a prophet" in 2019.
After this proclamation, he formed a small offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is itself a more hardline branch of the mainstream Mormon religion. Assembling a group of 50 followers, he claimed some of their wives as his own, and married his 15-year-old daughter that same year.
Bateman himself was recorded instructing three of his adult male followers to have sex with children, one of whom was 12 years old at the time, the FBI claimed. He allegedly told the men that doing so was God's will. Eight of the nine girls removed from Bateman's properties are listed by the FBI as his wives.
Despite the litany of allegations against him, Bateman has not yet been charged with any sexual offenses.