In an odd mix of "sovereign citizen" and black separatist ideologies, a Memphis man was arrested in March for trying to acquire 11 properties without paying for them.
In an odd mix of "sovereign citizen" and black separatist ideologies, a Memphis man was arrested in March for trying to acquire 11 properties without paying for them. Michael Cobbs, 34, filed pseudo-legal "deeds" on homes and a motel in Shelby County, Tenn., that he claimed made him owner of the properties.
The alleged scheme derives from ideas of the so-called sovereign citizens movement, whose members generally believe they are immune from the laws and taxes of state and federal governments. A recent twist on their methods has been seizing foreclosed homes with phony documents. In 2008, for instance, a group called the Sovereign Solomon Brothers Archbishop Sole filed dozens of fake deeds on pricey foreclosed homes in California, then rented them out while claiming "sovereign immunity" from the law.
What made Cobbs' reported actions especially noteworthy was that he claimed to follow the teachings of Yahweh ben Yahweh, the late leader of a murderous black supremacist sect long based in South Florida. Core ideas of sovereign citizens ideology originated in the white supremacist Posse Comitatus and specifically described black Americans as mere "14th Amendment citizens," rather than full-fledged citizens under the Constitution.
"We learned all of this from Yahweh ben Yahweh," Cobbs told a reporter from WREG-TV in Memphis.
Yahweh ben Yahweh, who headed the Nation of Yahweh sect, wore a turban and flowing white robes and claimed to be the reincarnated Messiah. He began numerous business enterprises in poor neighborhoods that amassed a fortune of as much as $100 million. Although he was initially welcomed with open arms by gullible Miami civic leaders, he and more than a dozen followers ultimately were indicted on federal racketeering and extortion charges related to the murder of 14 people, several of them whites whose ears were brought back to Yahweh ben Yahweh as trophies. He was convicted in 1992 of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2001 and died in 2007.
Cobbs was charged in two transactions of criminal attempted theft of property, but prosecutors dropped the charge in one case. The other case was pending when the Intelligence Report went to press.