The Intelligence Report is the SPLC's award-winning magazine. Subscribe here for a print copy.

Seizure of Houses Spreading in Antigovernment Movement

The most ambitious — and crooked — members of the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement apparently never sleep, at least not in their own homes.

Take Robert Carr of Ohio.

As they were indicting Carr in December on multiple counts of breaking and entering and theft, authorities in Cincinnati said the 49-year-old Buckeye State sovereign had tried to steal 11 houses in foreclosure. He filed quiet title to at least one in October, claiming that physical possession made it his property.

His girlfriend and alleged accomplice, Bethany Firth, 25, was charged with one count of breaking and entering, making them the Bonnie and Clyde of sovereign squatters.

“If you abandon something, you forfeit all your rights and title to it,” Carr told WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, “and title is not a piece of paper. Title is when you grab it and say ‘mine.’”

Breaking into empty houses and claiming them as their own seems to be an increasingly popular tactic with sovereigns these days as the movement of scammers and the desperate continues to spread across the country and up into Canada. In October, according to local media accounts, Canadian authorities arrested a man as part of an investigation into allegations that a group of sovereign citizens had taken over a trapper’s cabin in northwestern Alberta. The month before, Calgary police busted a man who had claimed a duplex as his embassy, changed the locks and refused to leave.

The man also gutted the kitchen and sent a hefty renovation bill to the duplex owner.

In late November, authorities in Hamilton, Ontario, arrested Dean Clifford, who tours Canada giving lectures to paying audiences on how to avoid paying taxes by declaring oneself a “Freeman on the Land.” Clifford was arrested shortly after giving one of his talks. He was charged with failing to appear for court hearings regarding an arrest in the summer for traffic violations.

“Freeman members now constitute a major policing problem in several provinces and have occasionally engaged in acts of violence against the police,” noted a report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Back south of the border, another teacher of sovereign strategies, Donald Joe Barber, swore off sharing his knowledge of the antigovernment movement. According to local media accounts, as Barber was being sentenced in late September in Birmingham, Ala., to two years in federal prison for mailing a fake financial document to pay off his home mortgage, he told the court in a written statement that “I have already quit teaching these things.”

Barber tried to read the statement himself but was so overcome with emotion his lawyer had to read it for him. “I will cease ever teaching it anymore,” Barber promised, according to the statement.