Arizona cult leader from polygamist sect took 20 'wives' including girl aged 9, FBI says

police tape
Getty Images
  • A man in Arizona made 20 women his wives, including a nine-year-old, the FBI said.

  • He is currently in jail, accused of child abuse among other allegations.

  • An affidavit said the FBI has probable cause to believe he trafficked people for sexual purposes.

The FBI said a man in Arizona took a total of 20 "wives," including several girls, one as young as nine.

The claim came in an FBI affidavit filed in federal court on Friday, describing allegations against Samuel Rappylee Bateman, 46.

It described him as a cult leader, who had "approximately 50 followers and over 20 wives, many of whom are minors, mostly under the age of 15."

The document and its contents were first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. Insider also viewed a copy.

Although the document used the word "wives", polygamy is illegal in the US. Marrying under the age of 16 is illegal in Arizona without a judge's permission.

Per the affidavit, Bateman began his relationships in 2020, including with children and the wives of some of his followers.

The document said that one of the girls was born in 2011, making her at most nine years old in November 2020 when she was with Bateman.

He also organized group sex acts some of with them, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said the FBI has probable cause to believe that Bateman and others trafficked the people "to engage in criminal sexual activity, and travel in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors."

Bateman, has not been charged with sexual abuse, the Tribune noted, though he is in jail on accusations of child abuse.

The Tribune reported that earlier in the FBI's investigation, agents took eight girls aged 11 to 16 from Bateman's houses in Colorado City, Arizona, who were taken into state custody.

The Tribune described Bateman as part of a splinter group of the Mormon faith which allows polygamy, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).

The mainstream Mormon church has disavowed the FLDS and said that polygamy is grounds for excommunication.

The affidavit said that people began to contact law enforcement about him in November 2020, including a woman who accused him of kidnapping her grandchildren. But the parents in question said they did not object to their children being with Bateman, per the document.

Bateman's attorney did not respond to the Tribune's request for comment, and the Tribune said Bateman did not respond to an email sent to him in jail.

Correction, December 5, 2022: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the year one of the girls was born. It was 2011, per the affidavit, not 2008.

Read the original article on Insider