The other PAPER TERRORISM – Fiat Papers


The other PAPER TERRORISM – Fiat Papers


Paper terrorism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paper terrorism is a neologism to refer to the use of false liens, frivolous lawsuits, bogus letters of credit, and other legal documents lacking sound factual basis as a method of harassment, especially against government officials.[1] These methods are popular among some anti-government groups[2] and those associated with the redemption movement.[3] Mark Pitcavage of the ADL states that these methods were pioneered by the Posse Comitatus.[4] Some victims of paper terrorism have been forced to declare bankruptcy.[5] An article by the Southern Poverty Law Center states that another tactic is filing reports with the Internal Revenue Service falsely accusing their political enemies of having unreported income.[6] Such frivolous lawsuits also clog the court system making it more difficult to process other cases and including using challenges to the titles of property owned by government officials and others.[7] Another method of paper terrorism is filing bankruptcy petitions against others in an effort to ruin their credit ratings.[8]

The ‘Republic of Texas’, a militia group claiming that Texas was legally independent, carried out what it called “a campaign of paper terrorism” using bogus land claims and bad checks to try to congest Texas courts.[9]

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[edit] References

  1. ^ Robert Chamberlain and Donald P. Haider-Markel (Sep., 2005), “Lien on Me”: State Policy Innovation in Response to Paper Terrorism, 58, Political Research Quarterly, pp. 449–460
  2. ^ Erick J. Haynie (Autumn, 1997), Populism, Free Speech, and the Rule of Law: The “Fully Informed” Jury Movement and Its Implications, 88, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), pp. 343–379
  3. ^ Susan P. Koniak (Spring – Summer, 1996), When Law Risks Madness, 8, Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, pp. 65–138, JSTOR 743460
  4. ^ Mark Pitcavage (June 29, 1998), Paper Terrorism’s Forgotten Victims: The Use of Bogus Liens against Private Individuals and Businesses, Anti-Defamation League
  5. ^ Christopher A. Young (August 28, 2007), Minnesota Has New Weapons in the Fight Against Paper Terrorism, The Hennepin Lawyer
  6. ^ Common-Law Victims: ‘Paper terrorism’ isn’t just on paper, Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 1998
  7. ^ Robertson, Ann E. (2007). Terrorism and global security. Facts On File. p. 25. ISBN 978-0816067664.
  8. ^ Maller, Peter (Sept. 3, 2002), ‘Paper terrorism’ gaining adherents, Journal-Sentinel
  9. ^ Hoffman, Bruce (2nd ed. 2006). Inside Terrorism. Columbia University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0231126991.
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Paper Terrorism’s Forgotten Victims:  The Use of Bogus Liens against Private Individuals and Businesses

A Militia Watchdog Special Report by Mark Pitcavage, Ph.D.  This report may not be copied or duplicated without the permission of the author.

 Last Modified, June 29, 1998



Edward J. Wagner did not like to pay taxes. However, unlike the vast majority of Americans for whom taxpaying is simply an unpleasant prospect, Wagner claimed that he had no legal obligation to pay taxes and therefore refused to do so. In short, he was a tax protester, one of several tens of thousands of Americans ideologically motivated to oppose the tax system.

The Internal Revenue Service soon noticed that the Seattle resident, an employee of General Electric, had stopped paying taxes. In 1992 the IRS placed a tax lien on Wagner’s property and required that General Electric deduct additional money from his paycheck. Now Edward Wagner paid even more money to the Internal Revenue Service each week.

It did not take Wagner long to react. He lashed out at a number of individuals and organizations. In late May 1992 he wrote an angry letter, which he called an “Affidavit and Public Notice of Obligation to Perform” and filed in the King County Recorder’s Office. It was addressed to his bookkeepers, Dave Elliott & Associates, who had agreed to do tax returns for several tax protesters. Wagner accused Elliott of fraud for not deducting living expenses “as a father and laborer,” and for not deducting food as fuel. He accused the IRS of “playing some sort of tax game to fluff-off [Elliott’s] incompetence at my expense.” Wagner then threatened Elliott. “I DON’T LIKE IT,” he wrote. “DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS. OTHERWISE, I WILL BE FORCED TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST YOU IN COMMERCE.”

Dave Elliott & Associates heard no more from Wagner after this threat, being only tangentially involved in the incident, but they were lucky. Wagner had already lashed out against the people and organizations that he conceived had stolen his livelihood and were persecuting him. Several months earlier he had begun filing documents against various individuals associated with General Electric and various public officials which would, in his mind, allow him to file liens against their property.

Wagner’s rationale was simple. In an “Affidavit…in Support of Claim of Lien for Labor,” filed in early May, Wagner listed his grievances. “I work for General Electric on Contract,” he stated. “I agreed to work for General Electric at a certain rate of payment and General Electric agreed to pay for my labor. I have been working and General Electric has been paying…until recently. I like working for General Electric, but general Electric [sic] doesn’t like paying for the work.” Wagner claimed that General Electric owed him $62,399.78 for the work that he had performed as an employee. However, General Electric had “given away” some of that money without his permission. Essentially Wagner had two grievances. First, General Electric was making deductions for the IRS. But, said Wagner, “I have no contract with the Internal Revenue Service for any kind of service or product which that corporation sells or pretends to sell.” Nor had they ever sent him a “bill of any sort containing an itemized statement.” Second, General Electric made deductions for Social Security withholding. However, Wagner did not think much of Social Security: “It has been stated that General Electric has been giving the Internal Revenue Service some of my money for the payment of old age insurance premiums. I don’t like the kind of insurance that the Internal Revenue service sells. I don’t think that the company that it represents is very reputable…NO prudent person, with any brains, wants to invest in that kind of insurance company…a real social insecurity company.”

By August 1992 Edward Wagner and his wife Carol had filed liens against a number of people, including then-President George Bush, U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, the attorney general of the state of Washington, an assistant secretary of state in Washington, and three judges. Also included on the list were Jack Welch, Jr., CEO of General Electric (GE), two staff attorneys for GE, an attorney representing GE, three other high-ranking employees of GE, and the manager and supervisor of Client Business Services, Inc. In addition, General Electric itself was named as a lien debtor. The lien was filed in order to “repair damages/injuries caused to Lien Claimants by Lien Debtors” and to “establish bonding in escrow to protect the peace and dignity of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the STATE OF WASHINGTON.” The amount of the lien was for $224,640,000. The Wagners attached 35 pages listing General Electric property being “seized” to satisfy the lien. The liens against the public officials were justified because they had done nothing to help the Wagners and were not fulfilling their Oaths of Office. By October 1992 he had filed at least 18 liens of various types against General Electric alone. By the following year he had added “commercial” liens against the private property of four IRS agents and spouses.

None of these liens could be considered in any sense valid liens, yet to remove them the various individuals involved had to go to court. Where Edward and Carol Wagner merely had to pay an inconsequential filing fee, the lienees had to pay considerable attorneys’ fees in order to have a judge dissolve the liens. In the summer of 1992, a U.S. District Judge dissolved a series of liens against General Electric, Client Business Services, Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., and other individuals. It also made a blanket declaration dissolving all liens, claims of lien or purported liens that the Wagners placed against General Electric property. In June 1994, U. S. District Judge Thomas Zilly dissolved the liens against the IRS agents. This time, the judge finally went one step further and permanently enjoined the Wagners from filing any document or instrument “which purports to create any nonconsensual lien or encumbrance” against any federal government employee or contractor. However, the Wagners continued to file liens in defiance of court orders.

Edward and Carol Wagner failed to get either General Electric or the IRS to acknowledge the validity of their claims, but they succeeded in harassing and intimidating a considerable number of public officials and private citizens. What is more, they were not isolated individuals, but rather only the vanguard of a growing movement. The Wagners were in the forefront of a resurgence of the right-wing “patriot” movement that took place in the 1990s, a movement which adopted as one of its favorite tactics the filing of bogus liens against individuals and organizations considered to be opponents. Although anti-government extremists had been using bogus liens for quite some time, the 1990s saw a dramatic increase in the use of this ordinary and mundane type of document as a weapon.

Proponents of the bogus lien saw that this strategy was an extremely effective and inexpensive way to accomplish several goals at once. Bogus liens 1) acted to intimidate or coerce public officials, particularly law enforcement agents, not to enforce the laws; 2) served as damaging instruments of revenge against private and public individuals or organizations that had somehow run afoul of members of the “patriot” movement; and 3) worked to slow down or clog up the judicial system, both in the general sense of making the entire system less effective and in the more particular sense of postponing the meting out of justice against particular anti-government activists. In the 1990s a number of leaders emerged as popularizers of the tactic of bogus liens, from Texas activist
Alfred Adask to the Montana Freemen in the remote Northwest. Proponents offered for purchase or even gave away free packets of information explaining exactly how to place such liens. Occasionally examples were even downloadable over the Internet. It was not long before anti-government activists ranging from “sovereign citizens” to militia members to white supremacists to tax protesters embraced “common law liens” (to name one commonly used term) as a way to strike back against a system they disliked so much.

The activities of groups like the Montana Freemen, We the People, and the Republic of Texas gave considerable publicity to the issue of the bogus lien. The complaints of law enforcement officers, judges, and other public officials soon caused legislators in many states to try to come up with ways to deal with the problem of bogus liens. A number of states passed laws that either made such liens easy to remove, criminalized the filing of common law liens, or did some combination of both. Yet as of this writing, more than half the states in the country still have no effective legislation to deal with the problem, nor is there any federal legislation dealing with the matter. Moreover, much of the legislation is directed only at liens placed on public officials. Private individuals and organizations are often still subject to the whim of document-filing extremists. General Electric is a case in point. The Wagners have continued to file liens against the corporation, despite court orders and citations of contempt. As recently as a few months before this writing, General Electric was still uncovering liens filed by the Wagners. Legal costs for the company have mounted well into the tens of thousands of dollars. The only relief attorneys for General Electric were able to find was by eventually locating a title insurance company willing to guarantee the titles despite the presence of bogus liens. In other words, the system failed to provide any sort of relief for the primary victims of Wagner’s pseudolegal harassment tactics.(1)

General Electric is far from being the only corporation subjected to bogus liens by right-wing extremists. Other corporations have also been victims, as have numerous banks and financial institutions. Attorneys for such businesses are also frequent targets of lien filers. And sometimes so too are ordinary citizens, guilty of nothing more than being next-door neighbor to a vindictive extremist. Few remedies are available for such citizens, and few have the wherewithal of a General Electric to combat the wrongs done to them. This is a problem that has largely been overlooked and unaddressed in the battles against anti-government extremism.

The purpose of this report is to shed some light on the significant problem of bogus liens placed on private individuals and organizations. This study explains the history and development of the use of the bogus lien as a weapon by right-wing extremists, its nature, remedies that have been adopted in the past, and the scope and nature of the problem of liens being placed on private individuals and organizations. It also offers some suggestions as to how to deal with bogus liens more effectively.(2)

The Origins of Bogus Liens

Simply put, a lien is an encumbrance upon property, typically an encumbrance placed by a creditor upon specific property of a debtor as security for his or her debt. There are many variations of liens, from tax liens to mechanic’s liens to vendor’s liens. In a generic sense, a bogus lien is one which does not fit the requirements for that type of lien or which is altogether unauthorized by law. A contractor may not place a mechanic’s lien against the property of a customer who does not owe the contractor money, for instance. In the context of this report, the definition of bogus lien is much more specific: a lien placed by an individual against an entity not for the recovering of debts lawfully owed but rather a) as a tactic to evade a law, regulation, or obligation, or b) as a tactic of intimidation, coercion, or retaliation. An example of such a lien could be one placed by a disgruntled litigant on the property of the judge who presided over his divorce settlement. The judge in this example owes the litigant no money or services; he or she has merely irritated the litigant by his or her handling of the divorce case.

One does not have to go to court to file a lien; one may simply file, for a small fee, the appropriate documents with the local county recorder or clerk. As a result, bogus liens are extremely easy to file. The fact that liens in the United States operate on what is in essence an “honor system”—in which every lien is assumed to be valid unless proven otherwise—means that the burden of disproving the validity of a lien rests upon the lienee. Typically this means retaining an attorney and going to court for a quiet title action. Thus where there are no laws to the contrary, bogus liens may be easily and inexpensively placed, but can only be removed with difficulty and expense. It is this fundamental disparity which makes the use of bogus liens such an efficient and cost-effective tactic for anti-government extremists.

Although the earliest origins of the use of bogus liens remain unclear, the credit for developing an effective weapon of “paper terrorism” out of them must go to the organization known as the Posse Comitatus, a right-wing (and largely white supremacist) extremist group which originated around 1970 and flourished up to the mid-1980s before declining by the end of the decade. The term “Posse Comitatus” means “power of the county,” and Posse adherents argued that the county level of government was the highest level of government in the country. They did not deny the existence of the state or federal governments, but rather claimed that the county government could overrule or ignore any state or federal law because it was the level of government closest to the people. The Posse argued that the legitimate (“de jure”) government in this country had been subverted long ago by a massive conspiracy and replaced with an illegitimate (“de facto”) government, the one the United States has today.(3)

The Posse was an outgrowth of the right-wing tax protest movement that developed in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. This movement uses novel though unsound interpretations of the Constitution, the tax codes, other laws and regulations, and history in order to make the claim that most Americans have no legal obligation to pay taxes. A typical argument is that the Sixteenth Amendment (which permits an income tax) was never properly ratified because Ohio had never been legally admitted into the Union. Therefore, the Internal Revenue Service and income taxes are unconstitutional. It was not a large step to go from making radical reinterpretations of the tax laws to making similar reinterpretations about American history and government. Thus from its very beginning the Posse was filled with amateur legal scholars who diligently studied the Constitution, old legal writings, federal and state codes, the UCC, law dictionaries, and a plethora of other sources in order to give their own version of American history and law.

The key to understanding the Posse’s ideology is to recognize that it was an anarchist philosophy. The end goal of all of the historical and legal interpretations put forward by Posse adherents was to provide justification for avoiding legal obligations. Federal and state laws, taxes, regulations and judicial rulings, as well as all financial obligations such as loans and mortgages, were fair game for Posse revisionists.(4)

The Posse originated in California and Oregon around 1970, but by the end of the decade had spread to most areas of the nation. The number of “card-carrying” Posse members remained relatively small throughout the group’s life, but a much larger number of informal members and strong sympathizers was proof that the strength of the Posse was not in its organization but rather in the attractiveness of its philosophy. That philosophy was most warmly received in the rural areas of the country, especially the great farming belt in the nation’s midsection that stretched from Texas to North Dakota. The late 1970s and early 1980s brought with them a serious farm crisis which devastated the economic well-being of American farmers. Plunging real estate values and rising interest rates, coupled with a past history of unwise loans applied for and granted by optimistic bankers and government officials, created a spiral of depression and ruin which left few farming communities untouched. The foreclosures and farm and equipment auctions which became regular occurrences in many areas were testimony enough to how hard-hit American farmers were.

Making matters worse was that farmers could not seem to interest the American people or the government in their plight. In desperation, many turned to the Posse Comitatus for support and assistance. The Posse, first of all, offered the farmers a target to blame for their woes. Rather than their troubles being their own fault, or the fault of impersonal market forces, farmers were told by Posse leaders that their troubles were the result of deliberate tactics designed to impoverish and destroy them. Many Posse leaders claimed the farm crisis was the result of a Jewish conspiracy, while others simply blamed “international bankers” or the United States government. The Posse also offered farmers a solution: farmers were told they could save their property if they used the Posse’s interpretations of law and government. Many farmers did so, claiming, for instance, at farm auctions that a bid of twenty dollars in gold or silver (the “constitutional” and “biblical” money) outweighed a bid of hundreds of thousands of “paper” dollars.

It is in this context of the farm crisis that the widespread use of bogus liens seems to have first occurred. Interestingly, bogus liens were often used as defensive tactics. They were not used as weapons against others, but as ways to help protect the property of the people placing the liens. Following the advice of Posse leaders such as Rick Elliott, founder of the National Agricultural Press Association and editor of the Primrose and Cattlemen’s Gazette, farmers filed “common law liens” on their own property in order to forestall creditors. They argued that the labor they put into their own property had to be reimbursed before creditors could claim any of it. The efforts of one Iowa couple to save their farm offer a good example. In 1980, Arley and Mary Boese, of Henry County, Iowa, borrowed $420,000 from the Federal Land Bank in Omaha. They failed to make payments and in 1983 the Land Bank filed a foreclosure notice against them. In 1984 the Boeses filed a lien on their own property, for “labor, services and material” to the amount of $1,462,837.10. This created a legal battle (Federal Land Bank v. Boese) that went all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, which admitted that their claim was “novel,” but pointed out that “an essential element in establishing a lien is showing a debt or an obligation by the landowner. This element cannot be satisfied when a property owner claims a lien on his own real estate because an owner cannot owe himself a debt.” Another tactic promoted by Posse leaders involving liens was for neighbors to file mechanics’ liens against each other’s property in order to frustrate banks attempting to foreclose. Some unscrupulous individuals even tried to sell “foreign contractual [sic] trusts” to desperate farmers, in which farmers would convey their assets to a company in the Bahamas that would have a common-law lien on all farm assets allegedly superior to all other rights. No court ever upheld any of the self-liening schemes.(5)

Putting a lien on one’s own property in an attempt to forestall creditors was in essence a passive or defensive tactic. It might delay foreclosure for a few years, but it did nothing directly to harm those who were doing the foreclosing (obviously, delays could indirectly harm lenders, particularly in a time when many lenders were also hurt by the effects of the farm crisis). The Posse, however, was not a passive organization. Its members and sympathizers preferred to act out aggressively against their enemies. Sometimes this involved the threat or actual use of violence (there were numerous deadly encounters between law enforcement officers and Posse adherents in the 1980s), but more often Posse advocates dedicated themselves to “paper terrorism”—the use of legal and pseudolegal documents, filings and even organizations to clog up the legal and financial systems of the nation and to intimidate, harass and coerce the agents of those systems. Thus Posse members formed “Citizens’ Grand Juries” and “Common Law Courts,” made out “Citizen’s Arrest Warrants” for disliked public officials, and created counterfeit money orders called “Public Office Money Certificates.” They also soon discovered the value of using bogus liens against their opponents.

From the beginning, bogus liens were used aggressively. In 1979, for instance, the Posse formed a chapter in Carroll County, Maryland, and claimed to have the authority to enforce laws in the county. When local authorities challenged the Posse, Posse members placed property liens against several county officials. When the state decided to challenge the liens in court, Posse leader Bruce Groff, a construction worker, had members of his group travel to every courthouse in Maryland to file bogus liens against every district and circuit court judge—some 200 judges—in the state. This, Groff felt, would disqualify all judges from hearing the case against the Posse. Unfortunately for Groff, his men missed one judge, who was assigned to hear the case and threw out the liens.(6)

If Maryland judges felt themselves raided by the Posse, officials elsewhere felt themselves under siege. Perhaps in no state was the Posse stronger than in Wisconsin, where an energetic cadre of Posse members was led by Donald Minniecheskie, Thomas Stockheimer, and the vitriolic James Wickstrom, a minister in the racist sect Christian Identity. Wickstrom, who claimed to be at war, conducted paramilitary training sessions with hundreds of Posse members participating. Minniecheskie’s property housed the main training camp, a collection of mobile homes near Tigerton, Wisconsin, which Posse members claimed was an independent jurisdiction called the “Township of Tigerton Dells.” Wickstrom, Minniecheskie, and other Posse adherents in Wisconsin waged an aggressive paper battle against local and state officials, placing common law liens on their private property in amounts well into the millions of dollars. In 1980, to give just one example, Posse member Arnold Minniecheskie filed liens against the Shawano County district attorney, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; a Shawano County Board member; and five officials of the town of Fairbanks, Wisconsin.(7)

The actions of the Posse, which disputed the legitimacy of most aspects of government, inevitably brought its members and sympathizers into conflict with the law. When then confronted by public officials or law enforcement officers, the first reaction of many Posse adherents was to file bogus liens. Clackamas County (Oregon) Circuit Judge Winston Bradshaw was just one of many public officials to discover this. In early 1983 Bradshaw presided over a case between Portland, Oregon, resident David Annino and the Reliable Credit Association, over a home occupied by Annino, who had not kept up with the mortgage payments. When the house was put up for sale, Annino claimed that his bid of $3 in silver coins took priority over the Credit Association’s bid of nearly $34,000. To try to disqualify Bradshaw from hearing the case, Annino filed a “common-law lien” on the judge’s property and even on his signature. Annino had already successfully removed another Circuit Judge from the case with this tactic and, indeed, he was successful once more. A third judge ended up issuing the final ruling (against Annino) in the case. Annino was only one of a number of Posse adherents filing such liens in Oregon at that time. Between October and December of 1982, between 15 and 20 other such cases which involved combinations of harassing lawsuits and common law liens and common law ‘signature’ liens had been filed. In Multnomah County, for instance,
Raymond L. Montee, a disgruntled divorced man, filed lawsuits and liens against 60 public officials ranging from attorneys, judges, and court employees to their spouses.(8)

Such attempts at retaliation were by no means isolated events. Posse adherents across the country learned the value of using bogus liens. In 1982, Richard Cooper, the “Supreme Court Judge” of “Zion Township” in southwestern Utah, filed 41 liens totaling $12 million. A Colville, Washington, police officer filed liens on county officials in 1984 because they refused to explain why he owed $202.97 in property taxes on his mobile home. A Waitsburg, Washington, farmer and several associates filed liens against the property of some 100 individuals that same year. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest and in the midsection of the country, those areas where the Posse was the strongest, the bogus lien tactic was frequently used.(9)

Not surprisingly, many of the individuals first targeted by Posse activists were agents for the Internal Revenue Service. By the late 1970s, IRS employees had become prime targets for “paper terrorism.” A tax audit might set off a flurry of bogus liens in response. For example, Posse Comitatus member Lester Irvin Reeves, from Terrell, Texas, decided that an IRS agent had conspired to violate his constitutional and civil rights in 1983, so he filed a $250,000 lien against the agent’s home. From Oregon, tax protester Lyle Van Dyke waged a campaign against the IRS in Utah, apparently because the IRS Service Center in Utah handled collections for Oregon. Van Dyke not only launched a $13 million frivolous lawsuit against various IRS and other officials in 1982, but attempted to garnish their bank accounts and attach liens to their property, mailing writs of attachment and garnishments to 50 Utah lending institutions and 48 stock brokerages. By then IRS officials had become aware of the frequency with which frivolous liens were being filed against their employees and were concerned. Put into context, though, this tactic might have been considered an irritant only. Between 1977 and 1983 the IRS investigated 3,647 cases of assaults and threats against IRS employees.(10)

The majority of bogus liens filed during this period were filed against public officials, who were, after all, the most frequent targets of anti-government ire. The filers of such liens often garnered publicity by targeting IRS agents, judges, governors, or other prominent public officials. All the while, though, another class of victims suffered from the bogus filings of Posse adherents, a class without any official status. Private citizens and organizations were frequent targets for angry Posse members. David Annino, the Portland man mentioned above who placed liens against judges hearing his case against Reliable Credit Corporation, also filed such documents in various courts against more than 100 customers of Reliable Credit. These individuals had done nothing other than to be customers of a company against which a Posse advocate sought revenge.(11)

Although potentially anybody could be victimized by the bogus lien tactic, private individuals or organizations targeted by extremists tended to fall into one of several categories. Banks and bank officials were perhaps the most prominent nonpublic targets because they were frequently involved in taking away the property of the lien filer. Similarly, other loan and credit institutions were often confronted with bogus liens. A second category of victims consisted largely of private attorneys representing institutions such as banks. A further category was composed largely of neighbors and acquaintances who had irritated the lien filers.

Many times, extremists began their campaigns of harassment by originally targeting public officials, then expanding the range of victims to include private individuals. This was the case for Wallace and Perry Dunlap, a pair of Colorado extremists who launched a blizzard of frivolous lawsuits against public officials after being issued traffic citations by state patrolmen. The Dunlaps sued four patrolmen, a county judge, a deputy district attorney, and a court clerk. But they soon expanded their reach, adding the governor, several more judges and district attorneys, and two insurance companies. The Dunlaps also filed liens against the property of many of the defendants. Eventually a judge prohibited the two from suing public officials or employees, but did nothing to prohibit them from harassing the insurance companies with lawsuits or liens. In Arizona, William L. Teske, accused of fraud and racketeering in a civil suit filed by the state attorney general in 1981, filed liens on the property of Phoenix Newspapers Incorporated president Eugene S. Pulliam and Arizona Republic reporter Albert J. Sitter because the newspaper had “harassed” him by reporting on the incident. These liens were filed along with a variety of liens against state officials. A judge voided all of the liens against the public officials, but Pulliam and Sitter had to sue in court to get the liens against them cancelled.(12)

Early Methods of Dealing with Bogus Liens

Posse Comitatus members and sympathizers liberally used the tactic of bogus liens in the early 1980s, but not to such an extent that there was nationwide public awareness of the strategy. As a result, different localities, levels of government and agencies adopted a variety of uncoordinated strategies to deal with the problem of bogus liens. These strategies can be divided into court orders, civil suits, and criminal prosecution. Of the three, only criminal prosecution seems to have had an effective impact.

Court orders and civil suits shared many of the same problems. They rarely deterred lien-filers, many of whom had no money with which to pay damages anyway. Some examples of such actions include:

  • In 1981, Alton Filan filed liens totaling $29 million against ten officials in Washington state. Claiming that it was a gross misdemeanor to fraudulently or maliciously make a claim that encumbers or clouds the right of title to real property, punishable by up to one year in jail, a county prosecutor (one of the targets) moved to dismiss the liens. However, the prosecutor made no attempt to charge Filan. Three years later, in 1984, a federal judge issued a court order enjoining Filan and his supporters from filing common law liens. Filan stated in response that he planned to continue his activities.(13)
  • Shawano County Posse Comitatus member Arnold Minniecheskie filed common law liens against eight public officials in Wisconsin in 1981. The officials sued Minniecheskie successfully. The judge granted them $1,000 each in punitive damages. There is no record as to whether they were able to collect the money, and Minniecheskie continued to be active in the Posse.(14)
  • In December 1982, a Montana court upheld a $200,000 judgment against an extremist who filed liens against a law enforcement officer who had given him a traffic citation. The officer sued for slander, defamation and violation of his right to privacy. Presumably the officer collected no money.(15)
  • The U.S. Justice Department sued Auburn, Washington, resident Jack Stewart of harassment, libel and attempting to interfere with the business of the Internal Revenue Service after Stewart filed liens against the property of two IRS agents.(16)
  • Federal authorities went to court in North Dakota against the Posse Comitatus in 1982 and received a ruling (U. S. v. Hart, N. D., 82-2046, 3-10) that “common-law liens” and “Sheriff’s Posse Comitatus Common Law Great Charters” are void and without legal effect and members are not authorized to arrest or hinder tax agents or officials.(17)
  • As mentioned above, Eugene Pulliam and Albert Sitter sued William Teske for liens he filed against their property after they wrote and published newspaper stories surrounding his fraud and racketeering suit in Arizona in 1982. Pulliam and Sitter asked for cancellation of the liens and for a $1,000 judgment against Teske, as well as attorneys’ fees.(18)

Criminal prosecutions were generally more successful, although not completely so. Few states had laws on the books against bogus liens, while there was no federal statute dealing with liens filed against federal employees. Wisconsin was one exception. In 1980 Wisconsin passed a law designed to deal with the plague of bogus liens it was experiencing. Its lien statute provided for both civil and criminal penalties. Any person filing a frivolous lien became liable for punitive damages of $1,000 plus actual damages and would be guilty of a Class D felony. Elsewhere, authorities had to be more creative. Some examples of criminal prosecution include:

  • Donald Minniecheskie received a conviction at the hands of a Shawano County, Wisconsin, jury in April 1983 on one count of criminal slander of title, a felony charge, for putting a lien on the property of the town of Fairbanks, Wisconsin. The law he broke was the “Posse Comitatus Law” passed in 1980. The judge in the case imposed the maximum prison sentence of two years to help “prevent a blood bath” by citizens taking the law into their own hands. Said the special prosecutor, Frederick Fink: “The only way to deter this defendant and other anarchists like him is incarceration.”(19)
  • Lester Irvin Reeves of Terrell, Texas, a tax protester and member of the Posse Comitatus, placed a $250,000 lien on the home of an IRS criminal investigator in March 1983. In response to this and other liens filed against IRS agents in Texas, the IRS decided to retaliate with prosecution. A federal grand jury indicted Reeves on charges of obstruction of justice and mail fraud. He was convicted the following year of corruptly intimidating a tax investigation, the first person in the country to be so convicted.(20)
  • In Arkansas, a federal grand jury indicted tax protester Chester Houston on two counts of mail fraud for securing liens against an IRS agent, a retired IRS agent, and his spouse. However, a U.S. district judge ordered the charges dismissed because, although the acts may have been taken in order to harass the people named in the liens, they did not constitute a scheme to defraud. (21)
  • Paul Rosberg, a Nebraska farmer and gubernatorial candidate, received a sentence of 90 days on four misdemeanor convictions of simulating the legal process and disturbing the peace for issuing common law liens on the property of three men.(22)

Actions taken to deal with the bogus lien problem during this period may be characterized as haphazard and generally ineffective. Had the lien problem grown larger, more energy undoubtedly would have been spent in dealing with it. But by the mid-1980s the fury of the Posse was largely spent. The farm crisis itself began to ease, if only slightly, while more mainstream groups and organizations turned their attention to the plight of the small farmer. Moreover, the leadership of the Posse suffered considerable casualties. Posse Comitatus founders Mike Beach and William Potter Gale died of old age, while other Posse leaders such as Gordon Kahl, killed in a gunfight in Arkansas while a fugitive for the murder of two federal marshals, died of unnatural causes. Other leaders, including James Wickstrom, received prison sentences of various lengths. Still others simply dropped out of the movement. By the end of the 1980s the Posse had essentially ceased to exist, save in a few isolated pockets. Consequently, Posse activity such as frivolous lawsuits, citizens’ grand juries and common law courts, counterfeit financial instruments and bogus liens also dropped considerably.

The Resurgence of the “Patriot” Movement and the Bogus Lien Problem

However, the ideology of the Posse was still potent and still circulated among the extreme right in America. What it lacked was some sort of catalyst, to energize the movement again and cause new leaders to emerge. Unfortunately for the nation, it received that catalyst in the form of the tragic events at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, and Waco, Texas, in 1993, where federal agents in each case seemed responsible for senseless deaths. These events galvanized the entire “patriot” movement, even to the extent of causing an entirely new sort of group to emerge – the “unorganized militia.” For many, however, the weapon of choice was not paramilitary activity but paper activity.

Some of the old Posse activists returned to the fray, like Thomas Stockheimer, who from notorious Tigerton, Wisconsin, formed a group called Family Farm Preservation. Other Posse activists such as James Wickstrom and George Gordon returned in more peripheral roles. Many of the most prominent figures in the revived movement were new in terms of exercising leadership roles (although often they had imbibed the philosophy years earlier). From Florida a disgruntled real estate magnate, Emilio Ippolito, graduated from harassing lawsuits to forming a “constitutional common law court,” one of the first of what would be many “common law courts” the movement would create. In Colorado a con man named Roy Schwasinger dreamed up a scam to inveigle people into participating in a non-existent class action suit against the United States in the hopes of winning millions of dollars. In eastern Montana a motley collection of farmers and tax protesters that the locals soon dubbed “freemen” began plaguing authorities in that state. From Texas a “Lone Star State” twist on the familiar themes emerged, as a group calling itself the “Republic of Texas,” led by the excitable Richard McLaren, declared that Texas was an independent nation. From every section of the country these new leaders arose, trying to convince others to become “sovereign citizens” and return to the “common law.”

The newly resurgent movement, often called the “common law court” movement or the “sovereign citizen” movement, used a number of tactics, many of them originating in the days of the Posse Comitatus: bogus checks and money orders, fictitious courts and juries, simulated arrest warrants and summonses, counterfeit license plates and drivers licenses, tax protest schemes and frivolous lawsuits, to name just a few. But perhaps the most popular tactic to be revived was the bogus lien. Within just a few years use of this tactic had grown tremendously, soon eclipsing in number and extent whatever heights it had reached during the early 1980s. The number of liens placed by anti-government extremists during the period 1994-97 easily reached well into the thousands. The major factor influencing the growth in popularity of this tactic was the much greater dissemination of information about it. The Internet played a significant role in this dissemination, allowing interested parties across the country to communicate easily with each other. But perhaps more important than that was the creation of a network of individuals and groups dedicated to popularizing the use of the bogus lien. Family Farm Preservation in Wisconsin, Joe Holland and his North American Freedom Council in Indiana, the Freemen in Montana, Elizabeth Broderick in California: all of these people and many more held meetings and seminars and distributed books and videotapes explaining the advantages of the bogus lien. Perhaps one of the most important individuals involved in the popularization of the bogus lien tactic in the 1990s was Alfred Adask, a Texas roofer (who once received 200,000 votes when he ran for a Texas Supreme Court seat) and editor/publisher of Antishyster magazine. Adask published two huge compendia of information about filing bogus liens, together totaling over 800 pages, including original documents as well as articles originally published in his magazine.(23)

As before, public officials were the primary targets of the bogus liens filed by anti-government activists. As Alfred Adask wrote, “Faced with corrupt lawyers and judges, no litigant can expect to win in court by simply playing defense. To beat ’em, you must be able to scare ’em, you must be able to make them respect you, and that means you must be able to attack them personally.” The bogus lien was the best way to circumvent the “corrupt” court system and get at public officials. “In short,” Adask promised, “properly applied, the commercial lien [Adask’s term for bogus liens] will choke a man’s credit rating so bad he won’t be able to borrow money to buy a cup of coffee.”(24)

However, from the beginning of the resurgence, liens against private individuals and entities remained frequent tactics. Indeed, the liens which apparently inspired Adask and many others in the resurgence were none other than those placed by Edward and Carol Wagner against General Electric, as detailed in the introduction to this report. “Wagner’s lien on General Electric,” Adask enthused, “may be the first ‘real’ commercial lien filed against government and/or its corporate agents. Regardless of chronology, these two liens are at or near the ‘epicenter’ of the commercial lien movement. Much, perhaps most, of what is known about using commercial liens to challenge the government is based on, or derived from, Wagner’s…material.” Adask also thought very highly of liens filed by Carl Iverson, a Seattle, Washington, tax protester, against Boeing Corporation in 1993. Iverson placed liens on 13 different employees or officers of Boeing, in addition to a general lien on all the property owned by the company. As in Wagner’s case, the placement of the lien was the consequence of Boeing having garnished Iverson’s retirement benefits in order to comply with an IRS tax lien.(25)

As in the 1980s, the nonpublic targets of liens tend to fall into certain categories: 1) lending institutions; 2) corporations and companies, often those that employed anti-government activists; 3) attorneys associated with any of the above; and 4) neighbors and other incidental acquaintances who managed to raise the ire of extremists.

Of these four categories of victims, lending institutions seem to be the most commonly targeted entities. The reason is simple: they are the banks and agencies which are responsible for foreclosures. They also house checking and savings accounts which might be frozen by the Internal Revenue Service. As a result, they are natural targets for extremist rage.

One group with a considerable amount of anger called themselves the American National Freemen and operated out of Kissimmee, Florida. Led by Laurent Moore, Jack Warren and Jack Franz, they were tax protesters who claimed to be “sovereign citizens” who did not recognize federal laws or courts. When Warren’s condominium was threatened with foreclosure in 1995, the three men filed a $22.8 million bogus lien against state and county officials and against the banking officials associated with the condominium. They were eventually convicted of threatening government officials, mail fraud, obstruction of justice and other charges.(26)

Another anti-government activist who popularized bogus liens was Roy Schwasinger, head of a group called We the People. We the People fraudulently took money from people in all 50 states and two provinces of Canada, promising them participation in a lucrative but non-existent class-action suit against the United States government. Schwasinger encouraged others to place liens against lending institutions, government and otherwise, because he claimed they were not registered to operate in individual states. He and his followers targeted public officials, law enforcement officers, and bankers; in 1993 Schwasinger filed lien documents claiming the assets of 140 public officials and bank presidents. Schwasinger was responsible for a blizzard of bogus liens filed on banking officials across the country. One victim was Craig Reeves, president of the First National Bank in Clayton, New Mexico, who received numerous liens after he foreclosed on a nearby ranch. Reeves took the matter to court and won, on paper, $2.6 million in slander judgments against the husband and wife couple that filed the liens, but received only counterfeit money orders as payment. In neighboring West Texas a rancher who was a follower of We the People filed a number of $30 million liens against DeWayne Hale, a Dallas bankruptcy lawyer. It cost Hale $10,000 to get the liens removed. “When you have a $30 million lien against you it worries you a lot until you get it done,” Hale said. Schwasinger was eventually convicted in Texas and Colorado for theft and securities fraud and on obstruction of justice charges for filing liens on government officials. “The purpose behind the [filings] was to attempt to intimidate and retaliate against judges, bankers, lawyers and bankruptcy trustees for taking positions adverse to theirs in five separate bankruptcy proceedings,” explained Assistant U. S. Attorney Bill Mateja.(27)

Officials and employees of lending institutions could expect such liens wherever there was an active “common law” movement. In Washington, where such activity dated back to the days of the Posse, extremists often filed such liens. One such target of bogus liens was InterWest Savings Bank and its officers in Mercer Island, Washington. Mercer Island, three miles from Seattle, was also home to sovereign citizen James C. Gutschmidt, founder of an “Our One Supreme Court” [a name given to many “common law courts”], who in 1995 filed liens in retaliation for the bank’s foreclosure on Gutschmidt’s house. Similarly, Duane and Rita Johnson of Gig Harbor, Washington filed liens totaling $49 million against Key Bank of Washington in 1994. Key Bank bought what had formerly been their property at a Trustee’s Sale and ordered them to vacate the premises. They responded by filing liens against the bank, its chief executive officer and several employees, and a number of attorneys representing the bank. “We are notifying each of you that our rights were indeed violated,” they informed the lienees. “The ability of each of the lienrights to conduct their business has been damaged by the actions, by the ommissions [sic] and the commissions of all obligated parties to this notice.” In Illinois, which also had an active common law court movement, a Madison County farmer filed a lien on a rural co-op near Highland, Illinois, which lent him money. In Highland itself, a foreclosure on an extremist’s property resulted in a lien being filed on the president of the bank that conducted it.(28)

Most of the liens filed against lending institutions are typically connected to foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings, but banks can run afoul of lien-filing extremists in other ways as well. Probably the most common non-foreclosure/bankruptcy related filings have been related to bogus money orders. Various “sovereign citizen” groups, often the same ones encouraging the filing of bogus liens, have promoted the creation and distribution of counterfeit checks and money orders, which they claimed were just as legitimate as the money created by the Federal Reserve. Such instruments flourished especially during the period 1994-1996, before authorities started prosecuting groups like the Montana Freemen and Family Farm Preservation. Groups selling or distributing the money orders sometimes encouraged recipients to slap liens against banking institutions which refused to honor them. Palmdale, California, extremist M. Elizabeth Broderick was one of the most aggressive in this regard, not only providing such advice but following it herself. She placed a $180 million lien against the government of Orange County, then tried to deposit the lien as an asset in her bank. When the bank refused it, she issued a $100 million lien against the bank. Other banks also suffered her wrath. She similarly issued a lien against Ford Motor Company for not accepting one of her money orders. Broderick filed so many liens against public and private entities that she began calling herself “The Lien Queen.”(29)

Ford Motor Company, which faced the wrath of Broderick in California, has had to deal with extremists elsewhere as well. The second class of bogus lien victims consists of those many corporations and companies which have been targeted by extremists for reasons ranging from withholding taxes to creating adverse publicity about extremists to exercising functions similar to those exercised by lending institutions. In Texas, Michael Joseph Kearns tried to purchase a car from Ford with a bogus money order. After Ford repossessed the car he threatened them with action at a common law court. Concerned that Kearns would attempt to file a bogus lien, Ford’s lawyers contacted the state of Texas for help. Together, representatives for the corporation and the state wrote a letter to all 254 county clerks in Texas expressing their concerns about what Kearns might do and asking them to decline to file any such document and to notify Ford and the state. However, the attorney general’s office later backtracked and claimed that clerks should not decline to file such documents.(30)

“Sovereign citizens” tend to be so aggressive against any entity they perceive has slighted or persecuted them that businesses and corporations with even the most tenuous ties to extremists sometimes find themselves the targets of bogus liens. When tax protester Steven Jones’ truck was seized by the local sheriff in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1993 to satisfy local taxes owed, Jones placed liens on the sheriff, on the towing service which physically took the truck, and the individual who later bought the truck at a tax auction. In Texas, “Republic of Texas” member Joann Turner’s property was seized because she and her husband defaulted on home loan payments to a bank that the FDIC took over. In retaliation she not only placed liens against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the judges who heard the case, but also against Alar Moving and Storage Company, which had been retained to haul away and store the Turners’ belongings, rather than leaving the furniture on the sidewalk.(31)

The sin for Fred Oaks Plastering was merely to ask its employees for their Social Security number. This did not sit well for Patrick Burl Bernet, an employee of the Arkansas-based company. When asked for the number by accountant Mark Rogers, who handled the plastering company’s books, Bernet first refused to give it, then gave a false number. When Rogers discovered this, Bernet then filed a lien against Rogers’ property. The Laclede Steel Company in Illinois committed a far graver crime: it withheld deductions from the wages of common law court activist Paul Wallace. Consequently, in September 1994 the Dow, Illinois, resident filed a lien against the property of 19 people associated with the steel company. The total amount of the lien was $66.5 million. The A. H. Belo Corporation was targeted by extremists because it owned the Dallas Morning News, a newspaper which published stories unfavorable to the cause of anti-government extremists. Consequently, a “common law court” in Arlington, Texas, filed a $1 billion lien against the corporation, one that cost the company over $10,000 to remove.(32)

In a number of the examples above, liens were filed not merely against the companies in question and their employees, but also against attorneys hired by the companies. One important class of nonpublic victims of bogus liens consists of those attorneys involved in legal action against “sovereign citizens.” For attorneys representing lending institutions, the prospect of liens has become almost a hazard of the trade. One such victim was Mark Cooper, a lawyer for Gulfstream Holdings, Inc. In 1994 Cooper ran afoul of Bud and Janice Chess and Carlos and Hannelore Montalvo, four members of American Citizens Alliance, a radical tax protest group. The couples were retaliating against a foreclosure suit initiated by Gulfstream against the Montalvos after the couple tried to pay their mortgage with bogus money orders obtained from a Texas group called USA First. They filed $25 million liens against Cooper and several public officials handling the case.(33)

The dislike that many “sovereign citizens” have for lawyers—a dislike that often runs into unreasoning hatred—makes it easy for them to target attorneys with bogus liens. Many “sovereign citizens,” influenced by common law theories about a “missing” Constitutional amendment, do not even think that lawyers are allowed to be United States citizens. As a result, attorneys are often among the first individuals targeted when an extremist’s blood reaches the boiling point. This was the case in Georgia in 1996 when Richard Charbonnier, a “de jure Citizen of Freeman Character,” initiated a flurry of filings against attorneys in that state. Claiming in one filing to be “poised to attack with liens burying the city of Atlanta far surpassing Sherman’s march through Atlanta,” Charbonnier filed liens of amounts from $32 to $48 million on a judge, a credit union, the Coca-Cola Corporation, five law firms, and eleven lawyers, many associated with Coca-Cola. Charbonnier was not the only extremist in Georgia taking aim at attorneys. An Atlanta real estate agent, Yvette Davis, filed liens against five judges, two magistrates, one corporation, and four attorneys in 1995.(34)

Where government-employed attorneys such as prosecutors have had the full force of the government behind them in dealing with bogus liens filed against their property, private attorneys are generally left to their own resources. John L. Valentine of Orem, Utah, discovered this after representing a bank in a foreclosure attempt. The resentful foreclosee filed a lien against Valentine’s home which took him a year in court and $14,000 in legal fees to remove. Valentine later became a state representative who voted for a measure to make it a felony to file bogus liens—motivated, in no small part, by his own experience.(35)

The attorneys hit with liens most often are those who represent lending institutions or those representing companies withholding income taxes. But almost any legal action involving a “sovereign citizen” as a party could become the impetus for the filing of a bogus lien. Lawyers might not even know they were dealing with an anti-government extremist engaged in a guerrilla war against the legal system until a lien was filed. This was the case for attorney Kirk Helvie of the Moffatt Thomas law firm in Boise, Idaho. A group of six “constitutionalists” stopped paying taxes in the mid-1990s, then in 1996 became more aggressive, filing bogus liens on a variety of judges, clerks, IRS agents, and other public officials (for a total of $41.7 billion worth of liens). But Helvie had nothing to do with taxes or the government; he simply wanted them to stop using the trademark of an air-freshener company. The constitutionalists retaliated by mailing him a Christmas card which contained a bogus lien to the amount of $500 million, as well as a threat to take action to collect it. The constitutionalists were eventually charged with (and convicted of) 23 counts of mail fraud, bank fraud, and other, similar offenses.(36)

The last category of victims of bogus liens is the broadest, though providentially the least numerous. It consists of neighbors and acquaintances of extremists unlucky enough to have angered them enough to cause them to file bogus liens. Almost any adverse encounter might trigger such a lien, as many people learned to their dismay. This was the case for a couple in Conifer, Colorado, who sold computer technician Rickie Allen Wilson, a student of the Montana Freemen, a home for $113,000. Wilson made a few payments, then fell behind. When the couple apparently objected, Wilson filed a $10 million bogus lien against them—a judgment from an “Our One Supreme Court”—for not recognizing his interest in the property.(37)

The Montana Freemen themselves, among the most hard-bitten of the “common law” activists to arise in the 1990s, were among the most active filers of bogus liens around. Most of their filings were directed at various public officials, but they still reserved a few for others who had irritated them. One such individual was the Reverend Jerome Walters, a Lutheran pastor from Roundup, Montana, where several of the Freemen lived until they evacuated their ranch and moved to another ranch near Jordan, Montana, in 1995. Walters had the audacity to openly speak out against the Freemen and against their white supremacist religion, Christian Identity, from the pulpit. He also wrote columns for the local newspaper and organized a forum along with another minister. Such actions apparently infuriated the Freemen, who resented any attempts to place God against them rather than on their side. They also felt that most churches were puppets of the state because they were 501(c)3 entities. “This is a religious war between the Freemen characters, i.e., American nationals,” wrote the Freemen in a document they mailed to Walters, “in their attempt to return to their one and only true Almighty God and his laws.” The 27-page document happened to be a lien against Walters for $100 billion. It also threatened to open hunting season on public servants and ministers. If even ministers were not immune from bogus liens, no group could be.(38)

Richard McLaren: A Case Study of Bogus Liens against Private Individuals

Most well-known for his infamous stand-off with Texas law enforcement officers in the spring of 1997 as head of a radical faction of the common law group known as the “Republic of Texas,” Richard McLaren is also an excellent example of the frustration and damage that one person can cause against private citizens by using the bogus lien tactic. For several years he waged a paper war against his neighbors, even before he began to wage his secessionist war against the Texas and United States governments.(39)

McLaren, not a native Texan, was born in Missouri and raised in Ohio. He married an Ohio woman, then moved to the Lone Star State in 1979. He lived briefly in
Forth Worth but then moved, not to the metropolitan areas of Houston or Dallas, but rather to remote and often forgotten West Texas, hundreds of miles away from even the nearest sizable city of El Paso. Here he worked at odd jobs and carpentry, eventually ending up in a small and isolated community outside of Fort Davis known as the Davis Mountains Resort. The “resort” was a land development of about 700 parcels of land, but had only around 100 residents inhabiting it. It could be reached only through a ten-mile-long road. McLaren went to work at an organic winery there, eventually taking over the business. However, he worked at ranching and viniculture only halfheartedly. An official with the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association claimed he was never serious about the winery: “Richard was always a hustler, trying to get people to give him money for something.”

The troubles for the Davis Mountains Resort began when McLaren became involved in a dispute with the subdivision developer over his land title. McLaren decided that the property titles and boundaries in the resort were drawn illegally. Whether he honestly believed this was the case or whether he decided to use this as justification for claiming much of the property owned by his neighbors is unclear, but the subsequent actions were all too clear. Beginning in the 1980s and lasting well into the 1990s, McLaren embarked upon a campaign of lawsuits and intimidation against many of his neighbors and against Stewart Title Company over the land in the Davis Mountains Resort.

McLaren’s land-grabbing had some success, as some landowners ended up acquiescing to his demands in order to avoid the harassing lawsuits. The costs of fighting him were very high—the local homeowner’s association that became a nemesis of McLaren’s ended up spending more than $70,000 in legal battles. At some point during his campaign, McLaren discovered the tactic of the bogus lien and began filing liens on the property of many of his neighbors, as well as the Stewart Title Company and residents of the region who dared to disagree with him. It was an incredibly effective way for him to harass his opponents; the filing fee in Texas was only $7 for the first page of a document and $3 for each additional page. The liens had a devastating effect on many neighbors. One resident, Larry Stewart, gave up 100 acres of land so that McLaren would drop his claims. The reason was that his daughter had cancer and his grandson had been hurt in a car crash. But Stewart couldn’t help them because McLaren’s liens had tied up all his assets. For residents determined not to give in to McLaren’s demands, the price of resistance could be high. One resident, Mary Wofford, said her family spent 12 years and $100,000 battling his liens and 17 separate claims that their 11,000 acre ranch was illegally surveyed. “This man tries to get land for nothing, and it just isn’t right,” she said. She eventually won her case in court, although McLaren ignored judicial orders that he pay her legal fees.

In the meantime, McLaren, in doing the research for his lawsuits, had “discovered” that Texas had been illegally annexed by the United States. With a group of other extremists, some who had previously been involved in the radical property rights movement in Texas, McLaren in late 1995 helped to form the common law group known as the “Republic of Texas,” which declared that Texas was an independent nation. The group soon became one of the largest extremist groups in the state, amassing hundreds of members in a short period of time. Some were attracted to the novelty of the notion, others to the prospect of a new way at getting out from under the thumb of the federal government, still others to the prospect of making money or avoiding financial obligations. Bogus money orders were one of the first tactics of the Republic of Texas, which successfully passed more than $3 million worth of them in its first years of existence.

From the beginning, McLaren was the guiding force behind the group, engineering the removal of the group’s first president when it became obvious that he was not in agreement with some of McLaren’s more radical ideas. And one of the tactics which McLaren encouraged was the filing of bogus liens against public officials and private individuals alike. McLaren supporters across the state began filing such liens; one of these was the $1 billion lien against A. H. Belo Corporation. McLaren openly admitted he was at war. “I am not a paper terrorist,” he said. “But this is a paper war. It’s our only real ability to fight.”

In the meantime, Stewart Title Company decided to try finally to put an end to McLaren’s activities at Fort Davis. It took him to federal court under the racketeering statutes. Here it won a judgment against McLaren, where U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton ordered McLaren to stop filing bogus liens against Stewart Title. However, the case proved difficult to hear, as McLaren, who claimed that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the state of Texas, failed to appear at three consecutive court hearings on the matter. Eventually Judge Bunton ordered McLaren jailed for contempt of court in early May 1996. McLaren remained in jail until June 7 before coming to an agreement with the judge—presumably one he had little intention of honoring. On paper Stewart Title won a $1.8 million judgment against McLaren and a permanent injunction barring him from filing liens against the company—although the company could little expect this to really deter him. Judge Bunton estimated that McLaren’s filings had cost his victims a total of at least $450,000.

The Republic of Texas itself was on a head-on collision course with the real government of Texas. Because of McLaren’s notoriety as head of the Republic of Texas, every action against him resulted in hundreds of phone calls in his support to law enforcement officers and other public officials. In addition to the liens and bogus money orders that members wielded, the ROT, as it was called, had filed harassing lawsuits, had convened its own courts, and had ordered Governor George W. Bush and the Internal Revenue Service to leave. McLaren asserted that the ROT would “bury its adversaries” in a sea of lawsuits and liens.

McLaren’s radicalism had a paralyzing effect on the community. Many refused openly to oppose him for fear of retaliation in the forms of liens or lawsuits. When one woman was targeted by McLaren in a suit, she was so intimidated that she did not feel safe even going to her office. “People are afraid they are going to get messed with,” explained the local newspaper publisher in 1996. “We’re all more cautious than we used to be.” He had every right to be cautious: McLaren had sued him four times and attempted to bring him before a local judicial-review board. Many residents refused to talk to reporters curious about McLaren and the ROT because they were afraid McLaren would file liens on their property. “I’ve put up with McLaren for 15 years, and he’s just a [expletive] idiot,” said Charles Sanders, one unreticent resident. “He’s dangerous…He sues for every nickel he lives on.” Another of McLaren’s neighbors agreed. “He’s Dippy the Dip. He started out as a handyman around here. Now he’s turned into an S.O.B.”

In June 1996 the real government of the state of Texas, stung by the activities of the ROT, finally struck back. A state suit resulted in a restraining order prohibiting the ROT or 25 of its leaders from breaking the law or filing bogus liens against public or private property. “The bottom line for the so-called Republic of Texas,” explained Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, “is they are hurting citizens of our state and they are breaking the law. The so-called Republic of Texas is putting enormous burdens on the offices of our county clerks around the state who must examine every lien to ensure they are not the bogus paper tricks of this group.” Morales noted that since its formation the group had filed “hundreds if not thousands” of liens against sheriffs, judges, county clerks, lawyers, and private citizens. In response, McLaren threatened to take up arms if the state actually tried to enforce the injunction.

The final chapter in McLaren’s saga began in December when Judge Bunton once more issued an arrest warrant for the ROT leader for not showing up at a hearing for a civil matter. He was also wanted on a burglary charge related to his helping a woman break into a house she used to own before it was foreclosed upon. McLaren ensconced himself in his Republic of Texas “embassy” in the Davis Mountains Resort and dared people to come get him, promising them a bloody battle. In January Governor Bush declared a state of emergency allowing lawmakers to more quickly pass a law to make the filing of bogus liens illegal. By early 1997 the ROT itself had broken into several different factions, split over the issue of McLaren himself. The most radical followers sided with McLaren, many of them joining him in his embassy. Since he had between one and two dozen armed supporters in the mountains with him, local authorities were cautious. However, they also repeatedly pooh-poohed suggestions that McLaren might be dangerous. Such assessments were shattered in April 1997 when, in retaliation for the arrest of an ROT member, McLaren followers kidnapped at gunpoint Joe and M. A. Rowe, leaders of the homeowners association McLaren despised, and brought them back to the embassy, creating a tense eight-day standoff between the ROT and state authorities that resulted eventually in the surrender of most members of the group and McLaren’s arrest.

McLaren, having been sentenced to a 99-year term in jail for the kidnapping and facing another sentence on fraud charges, won’t bother his neighbors any more. But for over a decade he plagued fellow residents of the Davis Mountain Resorts with his harassing lawsuits and with his bogus liens. “He’s been trying to get something for nothing,” explained Joe Rowe to reporters after being released by his ROT kidnapers. “His operation is totally illegitimate. He’s been involved in one land-grab after another. He’s a total [expletive] as a neighbor.” Rowe’s judgment was certainly accurate: Richard McLaren is an excellent example of the problems that even one determined person can cause using the tactic of filing bogus liens.

Current and Future Attempts to Solve the Problem

In contrast to the scattered responses in the 1980s to the bogus lien problem, there has been more attention paid to the resurgence of the bogus lien in the ensuing decade. This is primarily due to the fact that the problem has become so much more widespread. As of this writing, 20 states are said to have passed some law or another to deal with bogus liens. This is in stark contrast to the 1980s, when Wisconsin was one of the only states compelled to pass such a law. Nevertheless, more than half of the states still offer no protection from this extremist tactic.

Moreover, many, if not most of the laws that state legislatures actually did pass focus almost completely on the problem of protecting public officials from extremists filing bogus liens. Thus Idaho passed a law on “nonconsensual common law liens,” but it applied to public employees only. A 1997 Arizona law protects public officials from sham liens – but does not protect private citizens. Nevada similarly passed a brief law invalidating bogus liens that applied only to public officials. When Ohio, possessed of a very active common law movement, took up the problem in its state assembly, the focus was almost entirely on public officials. Some states provide some sort of expedited process for all victims of bogus liens to get the liens removed, but criminalize only the filing of liens against public officials. Wyoming’s statute (29-1-311) is an example of this sort of law. It automatically invalidates any lien against a federal, state or local official or employee based on the performance or nonperformance of that person’s duties unless the lien is accompanied by a specific court order or is specifically authorized by statute. It allows any person subjected to a lien to petition the county district court for relief, after which the lien filer must appear in court to justify the lien. If the lien filer does not appear or if the court does not think the lien valid, the court would then strike the lien and award damages to the amount of $1,000, or actual damages if greater, costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees to the petitioner. And finally, someone who files a groundless lien with the intent to threaten, harass, or intimidate a public official or employee is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $750, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

One of the more comprehensive laws passed was that passed by the Texas legislature and signed into law in May 1997. This law includes a variety of measures designed to ward against many of the tactics of groups like the Republic of Texas, including provisions against impersonating public servants, exercising the functions of a public office, creating a fictitious court, filing bogus financing statements, and using fake summonses, judgments, complaints or other bogus court documents. It also contains provisions to help deal specifically with bogus liens. Perhaps most conveniently, the law requires court clerks, county clerks, and city clerks to notify people that they believe may have had a fraudulent lien filed against them. As a result, citizens may find out about the problem before they begin to conduct a major transaction such as trying to sell their house. The law also creates an expedited process by which the victim of a bogus lien can seek a free and speedy judicial review to determine if the lien is valid. If the lien is deemed not valid, the court will enter a finding to this effect into the record. More importantly, in terms of deterrence, the law makes it a crime for the issuer of a bogus lien to maintain it after release is requested. If the filer does not cancel the lien within 21 days, it is considered proof that the filer intended to harm or defraud the other person. Of lesser probable impact, but still useful, is that bogus lien filers may be held liable for the damage they do through their liens. Lawsuits may be filed by the Attorney General’s office, public prosecutors, the person against whom the lien was filed, or by mortgage lenders or other parties with an interest in the property.(40)

Most of the laws enacted to deal with the bogus lien problem have been passed too recently to judge their efficacy. However, there is already some evidence that some laws may be phrased too narrowly. For instance, those states which passed laws solely prohibiting bogus liens without reference to other types of documents may fall victim to a newer tactic being reported from Colorado: the filing of false deed conveyances. These are documents which boldly attempt to convey the property of one person to another; for instance, an extremist may file a document which purports to convey the property of a district attorney to the extremist’s grandmother. These documents are clearly not valid documents in any sense, but their mere existence means that some title insurance companies will not insure the title to that property because they would have to go to court. The margin of profit for most such companies is so thin that a court appearance would guarantee a loss. Thus even though the documents clearly have no standing, they can accomplish much the same effect in terms of harassment that a bogus lien can. Yet these documents are not actually liens, bogus or otherwise. Because so many of these common law adherents spend so much time devising strategies designed to find ways around laws and statutes, it should not be surprising that they will be able to find any flaws or weaknesses in such legislation and exploit them. Legislation needs to be broad enough to cover not only the actual tactics used by paper terrorists, but also to cover their intent and forestall creative end-runs around legislation.

With that in mind, a few suggestions may be offered regarding future legislation or measures designed to protect against bogus liens:


    1. Federal legislation is needed. Currently, there is not even federal legislation prohibiting the filing of bogus liens against federal employees. Much more could be accomplished by federal action rather than by the action of 50 different states. Federal legislation that protects not simply federal employees but all public servants and employees, and which protects not simply public individuals but private individuals and companies as well, could be one of the best defenses against this tactic. Legitimate objections may be raised as to the authority of Congress to legislate on such a matter, but bogus liens often directly affect interstate commerce. Not only are liens often filed against individuals or companies in other states, but they directly attack the property of individuals, thus affecting their ability to conduct commerce. A comprehensive law criminalizing the filing of bogus liens would protect the ability of many American citizens to conduct commerce without interference from extremists.


    1. Criminalizing the filing of bogus liens is the most important form of deterrence and protection. While no legislation should ignore liability issues, experience has shown in a number of different states that many individuals who use the tactic of bogus liens are not deterred at all by adverse civil judgments. Many of them, in fact, are essentially judgment-proof, while court battles nearly always mean greater expenses in terms of time and money for the other party than for them (since the extremists will usually represent themselves). The prospect of jail time, however, even for a short period, may actually have a deterrent effect. And even if it does not, at least those individuals will be unable to file liens during the year or two that they spend in jail. While civil suits can sometimes lead to jail, the process is much longer and puts the burden of pursuing the strategy on plaintiffs.


    1. Legislation providing expedited processes for removing liens should insure that victims are required to spend as little time and money in the process as possible. There should be no fees for removing such a lien and the process of removing them should be so simple that the assistance of an attorney should not be required. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that new removal processes not allow extremists to use them to attempt the removal of legitimate tax and judgment liens, a tactic that has already surfaced.


    1. Both civil and criminal solutions should focus on the mere filing of such a lien as proof of intent to cause harm. Aggrieved parties should not be required to prove, as some laws now suggest, that the lien-filers “knowingly” filed a false or sham document. This allows the lien-filers to claim that to their best understanding they were engaging in a legitimate action. In the past few years, juries on several occasions have refused to convict tax protesters because they were convinced by the protester or the protester’s attorney that the protester honestly did not believe that he or she had to pay taxes. Use of terms like “knowingly” offers a similar window of opportunity for a lien-filing defendant. The Texas law, providing a period in which the lien-filer can voluntarily withdraw the lien, after which intent to harm will be assumed, offers one solution to this problem.


    1. Legislation must not be framed too narrowly. It must take into account not merely the form of the bogus lien tactic, but rather the substance of the tactic and its intent as well. For instance, legislation criminalizing the filing of documents intended to prevent the acquisition of title insurance might successfully cover a variety of similar tactics that a more narrowly framed provision would not. Some current legislation is broad enough to cover the filing of a number of different types of “common law” documents, but other laws are much less flexible.


    1. Legislation should empower as many levels of government and citizens as possible to deal with the problem. Individuals and companies with an interest in the property should be able to easily get bogus liens removed. County clerks and people in similar positions should be able to notify liened individuals. Even more importantly, they should be empowered to refuse to file suspected sham documents or should be able to submit such documents to an authority that can rule on them before they are ever filed. The attempt to file such liens should be a criminal offense that law enforcement authorities may prosecute, while the filing of such liens should allow victims to make a criminal complaint.


    1. Criminal laws should not focus merely on individuals who file such liens but also on groups which use such tactics in an organized fashion. Conspiracy, racketeering or other, similar laws should be modified to take into account such organized action.


    1. Penalties for breaking laws against filing bogus liens should be considerably greater for a second or subsequent offense. Moreover, any individual who has filed a bogus lien and has lost a civil or criminal case on that issue should be prohibited from filing any more documents without the approval of a judge or through an attorney. The penalty for ignoring such a provision should be substantial.


  1. Legislators should consider ways to criminalize the teaching of harassing or attacking others by filing bogus legal documents. Legislation using the term “with the intent to” might be appropriate in this case, just as there is federal and state legislation prohibiting military training for the purposes of committing civil disorder. The reason such legislation is needed is because there is a virtual industry of extremists who make a living by holding classes (for a fee) in which they teach individuals how to file bogus liens and other phony documents in order to exact revenge on public officials and private citizens. If stands to reason that if these individuals were less active, then there would be less of this activity. This might also serve to protect naïve or credulous individuals who become convinced that such instructors are teaching valid legal strategies.
  2. Lastly, for a long-term solution, legislators should examine possible ways to negate the desire on the part of extremists to use bogus liens in the first place. Bogus liens are only an effective tactic because of what they do: they can tie up property by obscuring clear title, they can damage credit ratings, and they can make title insurance companies nervous. Offering some sort of “insurance” to lenders, buyers, or title insurance companies such that they cannot be damaged by dealing with a bogus-liened property will remove their reluctance to do so and thus completely destroy a bogus lien’s ability to do harm. It is certainly true that there is no simple way to accomplish this, but the rewards for doing so would almost certainly be worth the effort of trying.


The bogus lien plague in the 1990s has been and still is a serious problem. One reason it is so serious is that it represents a successful attempt by anti-government extremists to use weaknesses in the system (for instance, an “honor”-based lien-filing mechanism) as weapons against the system itself. To date the system has responded most vigorously and most effectively when its own agents, in the form of public officials and public employees, have been attacked. It has been much less concerned when the victims have been companies and private citizens. In these cases the victims have largely been left to their own recourses, which usually has involved considerable time and expense in quiet title actions.

The current resurgence in bogus liens somewhat obscures the fact that this is an old tactic, 20 or more years old, which means that it will not simply go away if ignored. It also means that even if such activity dies down for some reason, it will be embraced again in some future resurgence—if effective activity is not taken to combat it in the meantime. The strategies used to combat the filing of bogus liens must be threefold: 1) punish those who practice it; 2) deter others from attempting it; and 3) remove the difficulties suffered by victims of the tactic.

Policymakers must be aware that there is not one, easy solution to the problem. The reason is that the people who devised and practice the tactic of filing bogus liens are among the most adept individuals around in finding weaknesses and loopholes in laws and the legal system itself. They are also people who believe that America’s legal and judicial systems are completely invalid and thus have the motivation to take whatever actions they believe are required. However, the very fact that they are ceaseless in their activity and creative in their strategies must mean that policymakers should themselves not cease vigilance in defending the public from their tactics.


1.  The example of Edward and Carol Wagner was taken largely from public documents filed in King County, Washington, copies of which are in the author’s possession. These documents include but are not limited to Jeffrey Fairchild to King County Records & Elections, October 9, 1992; Order on Motions to Dismiss and Dissolving Alleged Liens, July 17, 1992; Claim of Lien for Damages & Bonding by Edward and Carol J. Wagner, August 28, 1992; “United States Constitutional Citation Criminal Complaint Affidavit and Brief of Information,” August 31, 1992; Affidavit and Public Notice of Obligation to Perform (Dave Elliott & Associates), May 27, 1992; A Security (15 USC) Affidavit of Edward J. Wagner in Support of Claim of Lien for Labor Dated May 6, 1992; Order Granting United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment, August 8, 1994.

2.  The author gratefully acknowledges the help and assistance rendered by the following individuals: Bruce Buckley, Pete Haskel, William Reed, Ilse Bailey, Howard Stambor, Scott North, Stefan Leader, and Jeffrey Ryanl. Any mistakes or inaccuracies in this report are the author’s own responsibility.

3.  No adequate history of the Posse exists. Summaries can be found in David H. Bennett, The Party of Fear: The American Far Right from Nativism to the Militia Movement (New York, 1995), 350-355; James Ridgway, Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture (New York, 1990), 109-44; James Corcoran, Bitter Harvest: The Birth of Paramilitary Terrorism in the Heartland (New York, 1995), 5-42. A rather bad book, Cheri Seymour’s Committee of the States: Inside the Radical Right (Mariposa, CA, 1991), includes information about Posse founder William Potter Gale’s involvement available nowhere else.

4.  The ideology of the Posse Comitatus and its descendants is explored in detail in Mark Pitcavage, “Common Law and Uncommon Courts: An Overview of the Common Law Court Movement,” (Tallahassee: The Institute for Intergovernmental Research, 1997).

5.  John McCormick, “A Riches-to-Rags Story,” Newsweek, April 2, 1984; Mike Glover, “State High Court Rejects Effort to Head Off Foreclosure,” Associated Press, August 21, 1985; William Robbins, “Self-Help Advisers Profiting from Farmer’s Woes,” The New York Times, February 18, 1986; Untitled UPI story, dateline St. Paul, Minnesota, January 31, 1986. The notion of placing liens on one’s own property in order to protect it from creditors has not died away. In the early 1990s anti-government Alfred Adask published a “Common Law Lien Study Guide,” a compendium over 100 pages long containing materials designed to help people file liens against their own homes.

6.  Benjamin Weiser, “Posse’s Drive is Headed Off by Maryland Judge,” The Washington Post, July 1, 1980.

7.  Peter Arnett, “Armed and Angry,” Associated Press, March 3, 1981; untitled UPI story, dateline Shawano, Wisconsin, May 29, 1981.

8.  Untitled UPI story, dateline Portland, Oregon, December 28, 1982; “Man Claims House for $3,” UPI, January 18, 1983; “Man’s $3 Bid for House Rejected,” UPI, February 15, 1983.

9.  Untitled UPI story, dateline St. George, Utah, June 19, 1982; Untitled UPI story, dateline St. George, Utah, July 3, 1982, “Officer Who Refuses to Recognize Judicial Authority is Fired,” Associated Press, February 4, 1984; Untitled UPI story, dateline Spokane, Washington, May 24, 1984.

10.  Ted Gest, “Why More Bureaucrats Are Being Sued,” U.S. News & World Report, September 8, 1980; Untitled UPI story, dateline Fort Worth, Texas, July 15, 1983; Judi Hasson, “Tax Protesters Harassing IRS Agents,” UPI, May 26, 1983.

11.  “Man’s $3 Bid for House Rejected,” UPI, February 15, 1983.

12.  “Dunlaps Not Wanted in the Courts,” UPI, February 9, 1981.

13.  Untitled UPI story, dateline Spokane, Washington, March 23, 1981; Untitled UPI story, dateline Spokane, Washington, May 24, 1984.

14.  Untitled UPI story, dateline Shawano, Wisconsin, May 29, 1981.

15.  “Man Claims House for $3,” UPI, January 18, 1983.

16.  Untitled UPI story, dateline Tacoma, Washington, January 5, 1985.

17.  “Riding the Circuits, New Decisions, Part II, 8th Circuit,” National Law Journal,
May 9, 1983, p. 37.

18.  Untitled UPI story, dateline Phoenix, Arizona, January 27, 1982.

19.  “Posse Comitatus Member Sentenced to Two Years in Prison,” Associated Press,
April 29, 1983.

20.  Untitled UPI story, Dateline Fort Worth, Texas, July 15, 1983; Untitled AP story, Dateline Dallas, Texas, May 5, 1984.

21.  “Judge Upholds Motion to Dismiss Mail Fraud Indictment against Arkansas Man,” UPI, October 23, 1984.

22.  “Gubernatorial Candidate Out of Jail,” UPI, August 29, 1985.

23.  For background on Adask, see Terry Carter, “Roofer Tests Lawyers at Their Own Game, Runs for Judicial Office,” Los Angeles Daily Journal, reprinted in Chicago Daily 

24.  Law Bulletin, December 24, 1992, p. 2; Thomas G. Watts, “Texas Group Riding Anti-Government Wave,” Dallas Morning News, December 17, 1995, p. 1A. For Adask on liens, see Alfred Adask, Commercial Lien Study Guide (Dallas: Alfred Adask, n.d.); and Hartford Van Dyke, Commercial Lien Study Guide No. 2 (Dallas: Alfred Adask, n.d.).

25.  Adask, Commercial Lien Study Guide, 8-9.

26.  Ibid, 37, 328.

27.  Jim Leusner, “Orlando Tax Protester Stays in Jail after Federal Hearing,” The Orlando Sentinel, October 14, 1995; Debbie Salamone, “‘Sovereign Citizens’ Do Trial Their Way,” The Orlando Sentinel, January 5, 1996; Debbie Salamone, “‘Sovereign Citizens’ Get Chance to Present Defense,” The Orlando Sentinel, January 6, 1996; Debbie Salamone, “Three Men Guilty in Tax Scheme,” The Orlando Sentinel, January 7, 1996.

28.  P. Wagner, “Farmers Warned of Chance of Fraud,” The Des Moines Register, July 2, 1993; Christopher Wood, “Nuisance or Visionary? Jailed Activist Leads Ranchers’ Rebellion,” The Denver Business Journal, July 9, 1993; Bob Kerr, “One Man’s Controversial Crusade for Farmers,” Associated Press, November 14, 1993; Barry Meier, “The Lien King on the Attack,” The New York Times, June 29, 1995; Mark Smith, “Tax Protest Clogs U.S. System,” The Houston Chronicle, July 2, 1995.

29.  Communication to the author, September 23, 1997; public documents regarding Duane and Rita Johnson in author’s possession; “Fake Liens: Prosecutors Say Common Extremist Group Tactic Taking Hold,” Associated Press, printed in Beloit Daily News, May 10, 1996.

30.  Don Bauder, “Lien on ’em — That’s How One Tax Protester Stays Busy,”
The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 8, 1996; Elyssa Getreu, “Fraud Complaint,” City News Service, Marcy 27, 1996; Don Bauder, “Common Law Leader, Disciples Fail to Show Up in Court,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, April 2, 1996; Holly J. Wolcott, “Broderick’s Alumni Contacted FBI,” Antelope Valley Press, April 2, 1996.

31.  Mark Ballard and Richard Connelly, “Paper Terrorism: Off-the-Wall Liens and Judgments from Fringe Groups Are Causing Misery for Public Officials,” Texas Lawyer, December 18, 1995.

32.  Adask, Commercial Lien Study Guide, 239-42; “Republic of Texas Member Faces Arrest,” Austin American-Statesman, September 20, 1996.

33.  Joe Stumpe, “‘Meanness’ of Texan Who Filed Bogus Liens Draws Criminal Count,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 6, 1997; Charles Bosworth, “Defense Rejects Plea Bargain in False Liens Case,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 8, 1996; Sandi Magaoay, “Act 24 Punishes Filing Invalid Liens,” Pacific Business News, September 2, 1996; Valerie Richardson, “‘Courts of Common Law’ Punish with Phony Paper,” Washington Times, August 12, 1996.

34.  Jim Leusner and Susan Jacobson, “Four Jailed as Judges Harassed,” Orlando Sentinel, August 14, 1994.

35.  Trisha Renaud, “Fulton Judge Kills a Batch of Bogus ‘Commercial Liens,’” Fulton County Daily Report, April 30, 1996.

36.  Linda Fantin, “Measure Seeks to Lean on Phony Liens,” The Salt Lake Tribune, February 21, 1997.

37.  Steve Bard, “Jury Hears of Group’s Plot against Boiseans; Lawyer Says He Feared for his Family, Finances,” The Idaho Statesman, October 7, 1997.

38.  Michael O’Keeffe, “Associate of Montana Freemen Arrested,” Rocky Mountain News, August 28, 1996; Howard Pankratz, “Local Freemen Fraud Alleged,” Denver Post, August 28, 1996; Wes Smith, “Militants Test FBI’s Resolve,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1996; Gustav Nieburh, “Creed of Hate Called Christian Identity is the Heart of the Freemen’s Beliefs,” The New York Times, April 12, 1996. For a summary in their own (unusual) words of the Freemen’s beliefs concerning religion and government, see “Common Law Affidavit in Support for this Common Law Memorandum and Judicial Notice in Law,” filed by Rodney O. Skurdal, October 28, 1994, apparently in Musselshell County (copy of document in author’s possession). The best history of Christian Identity is Michael Markun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).

39.  The account of Richard McLaren is largely synthesized from the following sources: Bob Mahlburg, “Counties Urged to Reject Filings from Republic,” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 3, 1996; Michele Kay, “Republic of Texas Man Warns Judge,” Austin American-Statesman, May 10, 1996; Michele Kay, “Tense Times in Sleepy Fort Davis,” Austin American-Statesman, May 11, 1996; Scott Parks, “Republic of Texas Leader Freed,” The Dallas Morning News, June 8, 1996; Michele Kay, “Anti-Government Groups Waging ‘Paper Terrorism,’” Austin-American Statesman, June 16, 1996; Christy Hoppe, “Court Orders Group to Halt Bogus Liens,” The Dallas Morning News, June 26, 1996; Suzanne Gamboa, “Judge Tells Republic to Stop Filing Liens,” Austin American-Statesman, June 26, 1996; Kate Thomas, “Don’t Mess with Texas, Says a New Breed of Secessionists,” The National Law Journal, August 5, 1996; “Republic Leader Skips Another Court Date,” UPI, December 19, 1996; Richard Stewart, “Republic Leader Holes Up to Avoid Warrant,” The Houston Chronicle, December 21, 1996; Jamie Dettmer, “Lone Star State of Mind,” Scotland on Sunday, January 26, 1997; Sue Anne Pressley, “Cyber-Savvy Texans Are Papered Into a Corner of the Southwest,” The Washington Post, March 12, 1997; Eduardo Montes, “Neighbors saw McLaren as a Powder Keg,” Associated Press, April 27, 1997; Cara Tanamachi, “McLaren’s Life Story is Key to Negotiations,” Austin American-Statesman, April 30, 1997; Eduardo Montes, “Group’s Leader Harassed Neighbors for Years,” Associated Press, April 30, 1997; “Acquaintances Say McLaren Always Liked Attention,” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 1, 1997; Sam Howe Verhovek, “Before his Armed Standoff, Texan Waged War on Neighbors in Court,” The New York Times, May 2, 1997.

40.  This summary of the Texas law is indebted to the summary in Dan Morales, “Putting an End to Paper Terrorism,” Legal Matters, Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas, Http://


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Posse Comitatus (organization)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Posse Comitatus (from the Latin phrase meaning “force of the county“) is a loosely organized far right social movement that opposes the United States federal government and believes in localism. There is no single national group, and local units are autonomous.

Posse charters were issued in 1969 in Portland, Oregon, by Henry Lamont Beach, “a retired dry cleaner and one-time member of the Silver Shirts, a Nazi-inspired organization that was established in America after Hitler took power in Germany”.[1] William Potter Gale has been described by one expert as the founder of the movement.[2]

Posse members believe that there is no legitimate form of government above that of the county level and no higher law authority than the county sheriff.[citation needed] If the sheriff refuses to carry out the will of the county’s citizens:

…he shall be removed by the Posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and at high noon be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.[3][4]

Many Posse members practice survivalism and played a role in the formation of the armed citizens’ militias in the 1990s. The Posse Comitatus pioneered the use of false liens and other paper terrorism.[5]



[edit] Federal taxes

Members of the Posse Comitatus frequently refuse to pay taxes, to obtain driver’s licenses, or otherwise to comply with regulatory authorities. They deny the validity of United States fiat money as not backed by gold, which they claim the Constitution requires.

They have unusual legal documents drawn up and attempt to record them, declaring independence from the United States, or claiming to file “common lawliens against perceived enemies like Internal Revenue Service employees or judges. They are often involved in various tax protests, and have invoked arguments popularized by tax protesters.

[edit] Criminal activities

In 1983, former Posse member (and accused parole violator) Gordon Kahl killed two federal marshals (who had come to arrest him) in North Dakota and became a fugitive. Another shootout ensued on June 3, 1983, in which Kahl and Lawrence County, Arkansas Sheriff Gene Matthews were killed. Other members of the group have also been convicted of crimes ranging from tax evasion and counterfeiting to threatening the lives of IRS agents and judges.

The organisation also demonstrated to support its members over other issues such as divorce disputes. On September 2, 1975, Francis Earl Gillings, the founder of a San Joacquin County Posse group, led a group of armed Posse members to prevent United Farm Workers Union organizers from attempting to organize non-union tomato pickers. As sheriff’s deputies attempted to arrest Gillings on a traffic warrant, one got into a scuffle with Gillings and a shot was fired, injuring the deputy’s ear.[6]

[edit] Christian Identity

Some Posse members embraced the anti-semitic and white supremacist beliefs of Christian Identity.[7] Some believe that the U.S. Federal government is illegitimate and in the hands of “ZOG,” an alleged Jewish conspiracy.[8]

In 1985, a member of the Posse Comitatus announced: “Our nation is now completely under the control of the International Invisible government of the World Jewry.”[9]

[edit] Sovereign Citizens

The legal theories of Posse Comitatus have been further developed by the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which claims that a U.S. citizen can become a “sovereign citizen” (as opposed to a “Fourteenth Amendment Citizen”) and thereby be subject only to common law and/or “constitutional law”, not to statutory law (including most taxes).[10] The Uniform Commercial Code plays an important part in these legal theories.

While some African-American groups have adopted Sovereign Citizen beliefs,[11] the movement is dominated by adherents of Christian Identity. Some within the movement see African Americans, who only gained legal citizenship with the passage of the 14th Amendment after the civil war, as “14th Amendment citizens” with fewer rights than whites.[12]

In turn, the Sovereign Citizen movement gave rise to the “redemption movement“, which claims that the U.S. government has enslaved its citizens by using them as collateral against foreign debt, and sells instructions explaining how to “free” yourself by filing particular government forms in a particular order using particular wording. This movement “has earned its promoters untold profits, buried courts and other agencies under tons of worthless paper, and led to scores of arrests and convictions”.[13]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Corcoran, James (1990). Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus: Murder in the Heartland. p. 29. ISBN 0670815616.
  2. ^ The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right by Daniel Levitas (Thomas Dunn Books, 2002; ISBN 0-312-29105-1).
  3. ^ Terrorism in America: Pipe Bombs and Pipe Dreams by Brent L. Smith (SUNY Press, 1995; ISBN 0-7914-1759-X), 57–58.
  4. ^ “Common Law and Uncommon Courts: An Overview of the Common Law Court Movement”, Mark Pitcavage, Militia Watchdog archives, Anti-Defamation League website, July 25, 1997.
  5. ^ Mark Pitcavage (June 29, 1998), Paper Terrorism’s Forgotten Victims: The Use of Bogus Liens against Private Individuals and Businesses, Anti-Defamation League
  6. ^ Merced Sun-Star – Aug 9, 1976. Page 1. ‘Jail Term for Posse Founder’
  7. ^ Marks, Kathy (1996). Faces of right wing extremism. Branden Publishing Company. p. 146. ISBN 978-0828320160.
  8. ^ Knight, Peter (2003). Conspiracy theories in American history: an encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABL-CIO. p. 758. ISBN 978-1576078129.
  9. ^ Christian Posse Comitatus Newsletter, n.d. quoted in Kenneth S. Stern, A Force upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (NY: Simon & Shuster, 1996) p. 50.
  10. ^ What is a Sovereign Citizen?, Message to Students, Militia Watchdog archives, Anti-Defamation League website.
  11. ^ Are sovereign citizens racist?, Message to Students, Militia Watchdog archives, Anti-Defamation League website.
  12. ^ What is a ‘Sovereign Citizen’?, Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Winter 2008.
  13. ^ Beyond Redemption, Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Winter 2002.

[edit] External links




Representative Money

Representative money is paper currency that can be exchanged for a fixed amount of a valuable commodity, usually gold or silver. Paper currency is convenient because it weighs little and much larger denominations can be printed that weigh no more than single units of currency. For instance, in 1715, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia issued tobacco notes which could be converted to a certain amount of tobacco on demand, but were much easier to carry and to make large payments.

However, the problem with representative money is that its acceptance depended on the reputation of the issuer. This is why the people in early America accepted banknotes, because the bank stood ready to redeem their notes in specie, which were gold or silver coins. However, some banks issued more notes than they had specie; when the public found out, they would run to the bank with their banknotes to redeem them before the bank ran out. Such runs on the bank, as they were called, were a frequent occurrence in 18th and 19th century America, when many states did a poor job of monitoring the banks that they chartered. Eventually, starting in 1861, the federal government started issuing its own notes, that were backed by government bonds held at the United States Treasury.

Silver certificate of deposit, printed in 1880, a form of representative money that could be redeemed for 10 silver dollars. Note on its face the phrase “This certifies that there has been deposited with the Treasurer of the United States at Washington, D.C. payable at this office to the bearer on demand ten silver dollars.”
Silver certificate of deposit, printed in 1880, a form of representative money that could be redeemed for 10 silver dollars.

Fiat Money

Fiat money has no intrinsic value nor can it be redeemed for specie. Its value originates from government decree, or fiat. The best example of fiat money is paper currency. The paper itself has very little intrinsic value, so fiat money can only serve as money if its production is tightly controlled. The production of fiat money is mostly controlled by governments. Governments maintain this control by using printing methods and materials that are difficult to reproduce, and by punishing counterfeiters with harsh penalties. For instance, in 12th century China, where the 1st paper currency circulated, the penalty for counterfeiting was beheading, and this was printed on the currency!

People use fiat money only if they believe that it can be used in the future and that it will not lose value. The government will also usually encourage the use of its money through the force of law. For instance, since 1862, all United States dollars were printed with the phrase “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”

Although the issuance of paper money in the United States began in 1690, the U.S. government did not issue paper currency with the intent that it circulate as money until 1861, when Congress approved the issuance of demand Treasury notes. All currency issued by the U.S. government since then remains legal tender, including silver certificates, which have a blue seal of the Department of the Treasury; United States notes have a red seal, and national bank notes have a brown seal. Most of the U.S. currency circulating today is in the form of Federal Reserve notes that have the green Treasury seal.

Demand Treasury note printed in 1861. These notes were the 1st paper currency printed by the United States government that were issued for the express purpose of serving as fiat money.
Demand Treasury note printed in 1861. These notes were the 1st paper currency printed by the United States government that were issued for the express purpose of serving as fiat money.
National bank note, Winters National Bank of Dayton, Ohio, printed in 1901. Note at the top middle of the currency’s face the phrase “This note is secured by bonds of United States deposited with the U.S. Treasurer at Washington.”
National bank note, Winters National Bank of Dayton, Ohio, printed in 1901.
A modern 20-dollar Federal Reserve note illustrating the numerous details designed to thwart counterfeiting.
A modern 20-dollar Federal Reserve note illustrating the numerous details designed to thwart counterfeiting.

Electronic Money

Most money in most countries today exists only in electronic format, as records in the databases of financial institutions, which is why the United States Treasury no longer prints currency in denominations greater than $100. Law-abiding citizens use checks or electronic transfers for large payments, while organized crime and terrorist networks use cash. Hence, the elimination of large denomination bills is considered to be a potent weapon against organized crime and terrorists by making it inconvenient and risky to transfer large amounts of cash. Denominations greater than $100 were last printed in 1945, but were issued until 1969 by the U.S. Treasury.

Front and back of a $10,000 Federal Reserve Note printed in 1914, the largest denomination ever printed by the Federal Reserve for general circulation.
Front and back of a $10,000 Federal Reserve Note printed in 1914, the largest denomination ever printed by the Federal Reserve for general circulation.

Eventually, when the technology exists at a low enough cost, all money may become electronic because of its many advantages, both to governments and to the people. Electronic money can only exist if there are strong and stable financial institutions, because, like fiat money, its creation must be tightly controlled and people must have confidence that it can work. A great impetus to make all money electronic is that it may be the most effective tool to stop organized crime and terrorism, since electronic transactions are easily monitored and traceable, and tax authorities will certainly appreciate that tax evasion will be much more difficult.


Inflation results when the supply of money increases faster than the economy expands, which results in higher prices. Sometimes, governments increase the money supply as an easy way to solve fiscal problems, but too much inflation can destroy the value of money. Inflation does the most damage to money as a store of value, since its value continually declines as more money is created. Rather than keeping it, people spend it as fast as possible before it loses value.

Inflation also limits money as a unit of account because prices are continually increasing so it is difficult to compare prices that are constantly changing.

Finally, if inflation is too high, then people stop using it as a medium of exchange, and start using barter or the currency of another country.

One of the reasons why there is more United States currency outside of the United States than within is because many people in certain countries do not trust their governments. They are afraid that their government will print too much money as an easy way to solve fiscal problems, which would reduce the value of the native currency held by the people. This happened in Argentina in the 1980’s and in Russia in the 1990’s. Hence, many of these people hold their store of value as United States dollars, mostly in the form of 100-dollar bills.

Dollarization is the most extreme form of currency failure, when people lose all faith in their currency and adopt the currency of another country. Usually, United States currency is adopted because it is considered to be one of the safest currencies in the world, and because many United States immigrants send U.S. currency to their relatives abroad. Most recently, in 2000, Ecuador adopted dollarization as a policy.


  • As Plastic Reigns, the Treasury Slows Its Printing Presses – – a good article about the decline in the use of currency and coins. It also points out that the seigniorage earned by the United States in 2010 was over $20 billion and also points out that businesses do not have to accept cash, since the phrase “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” that is printed on all United States currency applies only to lenders or creditors, and not to merchants who sell goods or services.










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