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Feds Sue Seattle Man Peddling Sovereign 'Strawman' Scheme

The federal government is suing a Seattle, Wash., man with a long history of involvement with the radical right for running a scheme whereby his clients filed bogus tax forms as part of a “sovereign citizen” plot to defraud the government. In the complaint, filed in June, the Justice Department accuses John Lloyd Kirk of selling so-called redemption plans in the name of a phony American Indian tribe.

“Kirk’s scheme is part of an ongoing trend amongst tax protestors to file frivolous tax returns … with the IRS and courts in an attempt to escape their federal tax obligations and steal from the U.S. Treasury,” the complaint says.

Kirk, a a friend of infamous Montana Freeman Leroy Schweitzer, has a long history of extremism. He was arrested in 1997 on a variety of weapons and explosives charges, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and for years has been tied to the Little Shell Pembina Band, a sovereign citizen group that claims to be a legitimate American Indian tribe.

The group is hardly legitimate. In June 2004, according to the ADL, the IRS sent group founder Ronald Delorme, whose family made up a large portion of the membership, a letter complaining that the group’s identification cards described holders as exempt from federal income taxes. (Delorme defended his group and insisted the issuers of the cards had been expelled from the group.)

The new versions of Kirk’s plans involve two fictitious entities, according to the complaint: the Indian Nations Advocate Law Office and The Kirk of Yahh Hava. Through those entities, he provided detailed instructions to his customers on how to submit frivolous tax returns. He also is accused of offering help challenging IRS penalty assessments for filing frivolous returns. At least 31 of Kirk’s customers have filed fraudulent returns totaling $8 million, the government says.

Such tax schemes are the calling cards of the antigovernment sovereign citizens movement – far-right extremists who believe they are beyond the reach of government laws, regulations or taxes. Over the past 30 years, there have been hundreds of similar ploys packaging different combinations of forms and paperwork, attempting to perfect the process. Each exploits the sovereign tenet that the government holds a secret account in every U.S. citizen’s name, known as a “strawman,” and that the money can be obtained by filing the right forms and declarations. No one has been successful yet.

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