Common-law Court Founder Charged in Scam

North Carolina

The founder of a North Carolina "common-law court" — a man who once tried to pay his local property taxes with a $1 million bogus check and obtain a huge refund — has been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.

When officials searched the home of Peter Kay Stern after his Sept. 13 indictment, they found a veritable arsenal of rifles, shotguns, handguns and gas masks. A loaded weapon was positioned at every door and window, according to court records.

"I am not a violent person," Stern said at his arraignment.

Stern came to public attention in 1996 when he formed "Our One Supreme Court" in Franklin, N.C. Common-law courts including Stern's deny the authority of state and federal governments, and claim that their followers are exempt from taxes and other laws.

According to the indictment, Stern went to Bozeman, Mont., in November 1995 and acquired bogus "comptroller warrants" from LeRoy Schweitzer, who once led the Montana Freemen and traveled the country spreading common-law ideology.

Stern allegedly used these warrants to try to pay off various debts and obtain refunds for overpayments.

The indictment also says that Stern has a history of harassing IRS agents. In addition, two of his fellow "justices" from his One Supreme Court were arrested in 1996 and charged with threatening a federal prosecutor and intimidating an IRS agent.