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Arizona Sues Minuteman Group Leader, Alleging Property-Tax Scam

By David Holthouse on August 18, 2009 - 11:06 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

The leaders of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the largest and richest border vigilante organization in the United States, have long been accused of scamming donors and members with shady fundraising practices. These practices included the supposedly “Israeli-style” border fence fundraising campaign, in which the MCDC solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the construction of a high-tech security barrier that turned out to be nothing more than a barbed wire cattle fence.

Now the president of the MCDC, Carmen Mercer, has been called out by her state’s chief prosecutor for allegedly participating in a mail fraud conspiracy.

Last Friday, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard filed a lawsuit against Mercer and the President and CEO of Property Tax Review Board Inc., a Granada Hills, Calif., company that in recent weeks mailed thousands of deceptively official-looking letters to Arizona homeowners soliciting $189 in exchange for a “property-tax-assessment analysis.”

According to Goddard, the letters were designed and written in a way intended to deceive recipients into thinking the letters were official government communications from their county assessor’s office. Goddard said his office had received hundreds of calls about the letters, including complaints from Arizona’s 15 county assessors, whose offices were likewise inundated with calls.

The scam letters directed residents to mail their checks to a post office box in Tombstone, Ariz., that belongs to Mercer. A longtime crony of MCDC founder Chris Simcox, Mercer assumed top leadership of the organization earlier this year after Simcox resigned to focus on his political aspirations.

A statement released by Goddard quotes Pete Zegarac, the head inspector from the Phoenix Division of the Postal Inspection Service, asserting that, “This scheme was especially insidious because the deadline to appeal to have your property taxes reduced for 2009 has passed. There was no way the company could fulfill their claims.”

Goddard said Mercer has now turned over the post office box to U.S. postal inspectors and has surrendered the more than 1,000 responses she received. She reportedly told investigators that a friend asked her to open the post office box and she had no idea what it was being used for.

The same day he filed the lawsuit, Goddard obtained a temporary restraining order requiring Property Tax Review Board Inc. to immediately cease all business operations in Arizona.

News of Mercer’s alleged role in the property-tax scam broke amidst an already tumultuous month for the MCDC. On Aug. 1., MCDC vice-president Al Garza announced he was resigning to head up a new “Patriot” group. He was doing so, he said, because MCDC “is now on a path that I cannot endorse.”

  • jeri

    i am so glad i don’t live in Arizona, there is so much hate, stupidity–yes, i do know, that’s not the only place in America where people act as such but it seems like, these behaviors are like their jobs. God, please help,

  • Betsy Ross

    And I also would like for you to know that the legal Mexican Americans in Arizona are about as outraged as the rest of the population, and actually use a racial slur to refer to many of the “border hoppers” which have no intention of becoming citizens or contributing to this counry at all, simply taking or stealing what they can get.

    Minuteman was never anit-immigrant either, simply anti-criminal border hopping, which is what 3/4’s of those that actually come over those borders in Arizona actually are.

    They are there for “commerce” and the “commerce” they are most engaged in is theft, and drug trafficking.

  • Betsy Ross

    As a former 45 year Arizona, the original Minuteman group was a lifesaver for many Arizonans in the border towns and even Tucson and Phoenix, and did what the border patrol should have been doing but instead were simply posted at the official ports of entry. They parolled the over 500 miles of desert in which the automobile theft rings and drug cartels operate, and the human smugglers.

    And were never a “terrorist” group at all, but protecting their state and state residents, and their own lands, from being trespassed for illegal purposes.

    So SPLI you are flamers and hate baiters actually, and would love for all of you to live in one of the Arizona border towns for just one year.

    Then let’s see you change your tune.

  • majii

    Constitution Matters–what’s your beef with SPLC? This matter is being investigated by the Arizona Attorney General, not SPLC. There is also no mention of an investigaiton of Geithner in the article. I would think that anyone would be interested in seeing that no citizen is duped by any organization. This is not a conservative or liberal matter, only an investigation into someone breaking the law in Arizona.

  • GENO

    When Mercer talks about how she is for “the rule of law”. I’m not even sure which laws she supports or which ones she doesn’t. One cannot be for “the rule of law” if you’re simply supporting immigration laws per se. We have a wide range of laws that needs to be enforced other than the immigration laws. And when it comes down to large organizations like the minuteman, anti-racketerring and anti-corruption laws are crucial in preventing incidents of white collar crime like these. Now it appears all 3 states are filing federal charges against MCDC. It certainly doesn’t look good for Mercer:

  • YumaAZ

    WHAT ABOUT THOSE OF US WHO FELL FOR THIS SCAM. Little did we know when it looked very official. I even called the telephone number on the form because I own more than one piece of property which would have been effected in a tax reduction.
    I hope we can file in the legal action.

  • Snorlax

    Supposedly these militias are against the Federal government. That’s not true. They’re a bunch of liars.

    The SPLC report notes that militia activity came to a virtual standstill after Bush got elected.

    The federal government did not magically transform into a militia paradise when Bush got elected. In fact, Bush did a lot of things that directly threaten militias, such as the Patriot Act with its “snoop and poop” warrantless searches, and the FISA Reauthorization Act, which okayed warrantless wiretaps of domestic phone calls and internet.

    Those things can be used by the Feds to track down and prosecute militias. Bush and the GOP supported them. The reich wingnuts have NEVER complained about them.

    I am convinced that the militias are NOT anti-government. They are partisan political groups who are pro-GOP and anti-Democrat. I would not be surprised if the GOP is surreptitiously funding these militias in order to undermine the Democrats.

    Armed militiamen are starting to show up at the Dems’ town hall meetings for health care reform. Obviously they want to chill the discourse by intimidating people.

    Militias are phonies. They’re not anti-government because they support the Republicans. And the Republicans probably support them, too.

  • Snorlax

    This is nothing new. These militia or patriot or whatever groups have been doing scams since the 1980s.

    All that “sovereign citizen” tax dodging, printing up phony money and filing nuisance liens. They used to run seminars where they’d reel in the suckers with phony claims about not having to pay taxes anymore.

    That’s how the feds finally shut some of them down. They were running all kinds of illegal scams and ripoff schemes.

    We even had a nutcase out here in Colorado who made her own license plates out of wood and tried to drive around with them. Cuckoo bananas.

  • Ryan the non-Aryan

    We could eventually see an end to the MCDC. Given the severity of its white collar crime(organized crime). Either their “donations” or funds will be usurped for RICO or refunded payments to those who have gullibly donated to the criminal organization. Its likewise.

    On the History channel which aired the history on the KKK. It was the IRS back in the 60’s that took down the once powerful United Klans of America. It did enough damaged to that organization was dispersed into fractions of smaller autonomous groups up until this day.

    We can see the same fate happen to MCDC. It may destroy the organization into bankruptcy and dissipated into attrition. The MCDC is already on a path to a disastrous end. And the weakest link can be traced to Chris Simcox. But who knows whats in store for him if he should ever run a campaign to seek John McCain’s seat?

  • Constitution Matters

    I would like to know if the SPLC is planing to file a law suit against our treasury secretary (timothy geithner) for his tax scam? Or is your hate only focused on conservatives?

    1) No. They will not.
    2) Yes. They will censor this post because it does not fit their political agenda.