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Kingston Inc.: Polygamy's Entrepreneurial Empire
A Company, a Clan, a Corp. with a Plan
By BROOKE ADAMS August 14-27, 1 998 Salt Lake Observer Smart Local News (c) 1998 Silver King News Corp.
VOLUME I NUMBER VI $1.00
A young girl's desperate attempt to flee a polygamous marriage to her uncle has put the Kingston clan where it doesn't want to be: in the public spotlight.
The "organization, as insiders refer to it, has maintained a remarkably low profile in Utah at the same time it has built a financial empire that ranks it among Utah's most sizable corporations. Various reports have estimated the Kingston holdings at $150 million to $170 million.
But one source intimately familiar with the Kingston organization's inner workings - and who asked to remain unnamed out of fear of reprisals from the family - says an oft-published $170 million figure is laughably low.
Tracing the clan's holdings is difficult, though, given the Kingston's penchant for placing businesses and real estate holdings under corporate titles and other names that shield the Kingstons from direct scrutiny.
Their Utah-based empire is huge, however, and spans at least six states.
A check of public documents in Salt Lake County alone of business and real estate holdings reveals an astonishing array of enterprises. Department of Commerce records show at least 48 businesses affiliated with the Kingston family. According to property tax records, they are connected with 23 commercial and residential properties in Salt Lake County valued at $3.3 million listed under a Kingston entity called "World Enterprises." (Other properties likely are held under other names.)
Two locations serve as primary headquarters for many Kingston operations; a tidy but nondescript brick building it 3212 S. State St., and a nearby concrete warehouse-line structure at 53 W. Angelo Ave.
Chances are many Salt Lakers have unknowingly patronized the extended polygamous clans' companies, which include vending machine businesses, an ice distributor, accounting and financial firms, grocery and clothing stores, a fitness spa, and even a preschool.
Among the businesses: Standard Restaurant Equipment Co.; Fidelity Funding Corp.; Fountain of Youth Health and Athletic Club; East Side Market; Mountain Coin Machines Distributors; American Digital Systems; Family Stores True Value; and Little Red School house Montessori (see list on page 21).
Adding to the Kingstons's coffers are farms and businesses in northern Utah, and and holdings in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, California and Nevada -- including business associations with casinos, the Observer's source said.
One of Kingstons's most profitable enterprises is a bituminous coal and lignite mine in Huntington (Carbon County), which at one time brought in revenues of $ 1 million a month, according to the observer's source.
-- CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 -- One member of the organization operates Bail Bond Specialists - the firm that posted a $10,000 bond to release David 0. Kingston from jail after he was charged earlier this month with two counts of incest and one count of unlawful sexual conduct with his niece, all third-degree felonies. The girl was David 0. Kingston's 15th wife; her father, John Daniel Kingston and David 0. Kingston are brothers.
The plight of the girl, identified in court records only as "M.N.," became public after her father took her to one -of the family's northern Utah farms and severely beat her for attempting to escape her arranged polygamous marriage, according to police reports. John Daniel Kingston has been charged with one count of child abuse, a second- degree felony. The 47-year-old girl is now in protective state custody.
The case has resurrected a sordid side of Utah culture.
Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, never publicly endorsed polygamy, according to historian Richard S. Van Wagoner, author of Mormon Polygamy: A History. But he engaged in the practice secretly and in 1843 received a revelation from God that the practice of plural marriage was a necessary element of celestial marriage."
Mr. Smith had 33 wives by some accounts; Brigham Young, second leader of the church, had 27 wives. The practice was so prolific that many native Utahns' have polygamist roots - including Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (see Leavitt Lookout, page 5).
The church, however, publicly renounced polygamy in 1890 and, as a condition of gaining statehood for Utah in 1896, political leaders were forced to include a ban on the practice in Article III of the state's constitution, which ensures religious freedom while "forever" prohibiting polygamous or plural marriages. (Mormon doctrine, however, still values plural marriages in the hereafter).
A Kingston Family Primer The Kingston family first embraced polygamy around 1931 when, according to author Max Anderson, Charles W. Kingston helped produce a pamphlet that contained a version of Lorin C. Woolley's claims that former LDS Church President John Taylor had set aside a select group of men to carry on polygamy even as the church publicly disavowed the practice.
Charles W. Kingston's oldest son, Charles Elden Kingston, embraced the ideas espoused in Mr. Woolley's story and began practicing polygamy. Charles Elden Kingston launched his own organization, the Davis County Cooperative Society, in 1935 after having a power struggle with other fundamentalist leaders.
The Society is still in existence today.
The Kingstons have crated a religious organization that mimics in name at least the LDS Church: The Latter-Day Church of Christ. The clan is lead today by Charles E. Kingston's son, Paul E. Kingston, who is said to have more than 30 wives.
Brothers John Daniel Kingston, the father of the girl now in state custody, is said to have 20 wives; the mother of the "M.N." is half sister. Cousin Carl E. Kingston, an attorney, is said to have a mere two wives.
Mr. Van Wagoner, the historian, notes that in fact plural marriages increased after Utah became a state. And today there are more polygamists than ever, as the ranks of practitioners continue to grow exponentially. The population of polygamist clans in the West is typically estimated at 30,000, though disaffected members of such groups say the number may be as high as 60,000.
Despite an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Kingston family members, they aren't the largest polygamous group, ranking behind such Utah families as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (led by Rulon Jeffs) and the Apostolic United Brethren Church (led by Owen Allred).
But the Kingstons are said to be the most financially well off.
Carl E. Kingston is listed as the registered agent for many Kingston business holdings; he is also the family member the Kingston clan relies on to represent them in any legal wranglings. He is defending David 0. Kingston on the incest charges and John Daniel Kingston on charges of child abuse.
He also is representing another family member, Joseph Kingston, in an insurance fraud claim. (Joseph Kingston's home burned down last year, and the insurer is claiming, among other things, that he lied about the composition of his family.) The Observer attempted to reach Carl E. Kingston for comment on the family's holdings, but Mr. Kingston as of press time had not returned the phone call.
The Kingston organization is structured as a vast cooperative endeavor.
'That was when the Kingstons were guarding their businesses and stewardships.'
Members are expected to "consecrate" valuable holdings to the organization, which in turn sees after families' needs. That helps explain why, for example, it's impossible to find any property records in the Kingston name.
It also is why David 0. Kingston, who is employed by American Digital Systems - one of the organization's accounting and book-keeping entities - could truthfully record a "0" in court papers when asked to list debts, assets, property or loans in his name.
Consecrating property to the group is not the only way members are expected to contribute to the Kingston's empire-building efforts.
Young women are married off to other members of the clan between the ages of 14 and 16 - long before they could be considered consenting adults in such relationships. If attractions aren't sparked at dances that occur monthly or so, leaders of the group act as matchmakers in setting up pairings. Married women are expected to produce a baby a year.
Men, women and even children are expected to work for the organization's companies; standard practice has been to start wives and children at 10 cents an hour, increasing pay to the minimum wage, the Observer's source said.
"They're pretty clever," the source said. "Everybody in the organization works for really low wages."
Despite the numerous sources of income available to the Kingston organization, the families carry out an austere existence that sometimes borders on poverty. The men "have access to millions of dollars" but "don't feel responsibility for supporting their families emotionally or financially," the Observer's source said.
The clan has zealously guarded its wealth.
In the 1970s, Ervil LeBaron, leader of a polygamous group organized under the Church of the Lamb of God a Mormon splinter group threatened to sabotage the group's businesses if it did not start paying him tithing, according to authors Ben Bradlee Jr. and Dale Van Atta (Prophet of Blood).
"That was when the Kingstons were guarding their businesses and stewardships," the Observer's source said.
John Ortel Kingston later met once with Mr. LeBaron and then, according to the source, set up a second meeting with Mr. LeBaron to set things once and for all. "They were all there with munitions. They even has a body bag. But Ervil never showed," the source said. "They were sick and tired of being harassed. And it was costing a lot to put up guards and all that."
Kingstons' Utah Holdings: An Incomplete List 1. West Deep Creek Irrigation & Power Co. 2. Standard Restaurant Equipment Co. 3. IA Castle Corp. 4. Latter Day Church of Christ 5. Fidelity Funding Corp. 6. K.J.E Inc. 7. Coalt Inc. 8. C.W. Mining Co. (Related entities: Co-Op Mine; Co-Op Mining Co.) 9. Standard Industries Inc. 10. Mountain Coin Machine Distributors 11. Best Distributing Amusement Games 12. N.U.B. Corp. 13. American Digital Systems 14. P.P.M.C. Inc. 15. U.P.C. Inc. 16. ANR Company Inc. 17. Hiawatha Coal Co. Inc. 18. RE Company Inc. 19. PGAC Inc. 20. Westwood Inc. 21. K.C.P.C. Inc. 22. Spectrum Inc. 23. World Enterprises 24. Little Red House Montessori 25. Michael's Shoe Repair and Men's Store 26. Holtz Inc. 27. National Business Management Inc. 28. Specialty Consulting Services Inc. 29. Spiffy Ice & Cold Storage 30. Kingston Dairy 31. Kearns Property Company 32. Kingston & Associates 33. Kwik Industries 34. Garco Industrial Park 35. AM Security Alarm Co. 36. Davis County Cooperative Society Inc. 37. Fountain of Youth Health & Athletic Club 38. Bail Bond Specialists 39. Advance Vending 40. D. U. Company Inc. 41. H.K. Engineering Inc. 42. Sportsman's Pawn Shops 43. East Side Market 44. Family Stores True Value 45. Sportsman's Bail Bond Specialists 46. Sportsman's Fast Cash 47. C.O.P Coal Development Co.