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A Day Late and a Dollar Short, ‘Sovereigns’ Say Sorry

Macho tax defiance — a hallmark of many of those professing to be “sovereign citizens,” people who do not accept most criminal and tax laws — has a way a melting into humble contrition in the face of harsh consequences.

Macho tax defiance — a hallmark of many of those professing to be “sovereign citizens,” people who do not accept most criminal and tax laws — has a way a melting into humble contrition in the face of harsh consequences.

Samuel Davis of Council, Idaho, pleaded guilty to laundering $1.3 million on behalf of men who turned out to be undercover FBI agents. Officials described Davis as a sovereign citizen who traveled around the country teaching its ideology. Davis and a co-defendant, Shawn Rice, previously claimed they did not have to pay taxes and considered U.S. currency invalid, and also used sovereign-style “paper terrorism” against the officials attempting to bring them to justice. But Davis admitted his guilt in court, without the benefit of a plea agreement, and apologized to the judge. “He decided to do what he felt was right and take responsibility for what he had done,” his lawyer, Todd Leventhal, explained.

Davis wasn’t the only sovereign to effectively say sorry.

In Ulster County, N.Y., the first of three self-professed sovereign citizens who filed $1.24 trillion in unjustified liens and bills against state officials who were enforcing traffic and trespass violations against them was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for mail fraud. Ed Parenteau apologized for his role in harassing the government officials and told the judge, “I have learned my lesson and I will never do anything like this again,” Co-Defendants Jeffrey Burfeindt and Richard Ulloa were to be sentenced this summer.

Federal government employee Janet Jaensch — who lives near Alexandria, Va., and once claimed “not to be a party to the Constitution of the united [sic] States of America” and thus not obliged to pay taxes — admitted failing to file tax returns for eight years, at the direction of her husband. Richard Jaensch has been indicted on charges of corruptly endeavoring to impede the IRS, filing a false refund claim and failing to file four tax returns. He was scheduled to be tried in July.

And in Kansas City, Mo., Roderick and Amber Catrece Moore were sentenced after pleading guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, respectively, for attempting to pay $220,000 in taxes with a bogus “Registered Bond Promissory Note.” He received a 13-month prison sentence and she was given three years of probation. Like many sovereigns, the Moores believed they could use such instruments to tap into funds from secret treasury accounts the federal government supposedly sets up in every citizen’s name at birth. Amber Moore also admitted to filing fraudulent liens against the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Other cases involving the sovereign citizens movement, which has been growing explosively over the last two or three years, continued to pop up around the nation. Among them:

  • Mark D. Leitner, who lives near Pensacola, Fla., was indicted in April for filing $339 billion in unjustified property liens against federal prosecutors, investigators and court personnel who were involved in an earlier federal trial against him in March 2010. In the earlier trial, Leitner was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

  • A federal court barred Gerald A. Poynter II of Kansas City, Mo., from preparing tax returns for others and promoting the notion that money held in secret government accounts can be accessed to pay debts. Poynter is accused of helping at least 165 clients file fraudulent refund claims totaling more than $64 million.

  • Federal prosecutors asked a court to keep Monty Ervin of Dothan, Ala., locked up until his trial on multiple felony tax evasion charges. Past statements Ervin has made, prosecutors say, mark him as a sovereign citizen who flouts government authority and is a flight risk. The government said that Ervin — who has proclaimed himself governor of Alabama — has “demonstrated an absolute disdain for federal authority.”