Two sovereign citizens—a Pennsylvania osteopath who did government contract work and a 75-year-old Utah man who calls himself an “attorney at lawe”—are facing federal charges of being involved in a long-running scheme to avoid taxes.
Robert G. Wray, of Torrey, Utah, and Dennis Erik Fluck Von Kiel, of Macungie, Pa., are accused of using fictitious religious organizations set up in Utah and Montana to avoid paying federal income taxes.
The charges are the latest in a string of cases involving antigovernment “sovereign citizens”—people who not only refuse to obey state and federal laws but frequently pose risks to law enforcement officers.
Wray was arrested by federal agents last week on a 34-count indictment returned in mid-September in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The counts against Wray -- who calls himself “Robert-George: Wray” and “Robert-George: Wray of the Christ Clan”—include conspiracy to defraud the federal government and wire and bankruptcy fraud. He is expected to be extradited to Pennsylvania soon to face the charges.
“Wray claims to be a sovereign citizen who is not obligated to comply with the laws of the United States of America, including laws concerning personal income taxation,” the indictment said. He allegedly told people in Pennsylvania that for a fee, he can help them “become ‘sovereigns” who do not have to pay federal income taxes.
Wray isn’t licensed to practice law anywhere, but has claimed he is an “Attorney-at-Lawe” from a “Constitutional Lawe Association” in an attempt to defraud, the indictment read.
Court documents linking Wray to Von Kiel do not disclose how or when they met. Von Kiel, an Allentown, Pa, osteopath who has called himself “Living Soul, Erik Von Kiel,” was arrested in February in Pennsylvania by IRS agents and subsequently named in a seven-count federal indictment accusing him of conspiracy, attempting to evade federal income taxes on almost $1.1 million of income for four years beginning in 2008 while working as a jail doctor. He remains in custody until his trial in December.
Von Kiel, using his birth name Dennis Fluck, graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1988, financing his education with federally insured student loans, court documents say. When Von Kiel refused to repay his students loans, the federal government got a $132,185 default judgment against him in 2000. The following year, Von Kiel became a “minister” of a Utah-based religious organization called the “International Academy of Lymphology” and took a “vow of poverty,” renouncing any interest in real or personal property and future income.
In furtherance of the scheme, Von Kiel became the sole trustee of a new Pennsylvania entity called “True Life Ministries Inc.” and opened two bank accounts in the name of True Life Ministries in 2006.
While claiming he had no income, court documents say, Von Kiel remained working from 1989 until August 2013 as a doctor of osteopathy at the Lehigh County Prison in Allentown, Pa.
“Dr. Von Kiel has spent more than a dozen years conspiring with other persons to defraud both the [Department of Health and Human Services] and the IRS, largely by pretending to be an impoverished minister with no assets or income, even as he received annual salaries that sometimes exceeded $200,000,” the documents say.
The court documents say that in approximately 2007, the International Academy of Lymphology “church” changed its name to the “International Academy of Life.”
In 2011, IAL “executive trustee” Owen L. Charles was convicted of tax evasion, use of a false social security number and making false statements. Charles was sentenced to 51 months in jail for his involvement in the early phases of the conspiracy. U.S. Bureau of Prisons records show the 80-year-old tax swindler was released from federal prison last October.
While that federal investigation was underway and the IAL bank account was closed, Von Kiel provided a bogus Social Security number and directed his employer to not withhold federal taxes. He asked for his pay to be deposited into a new bank account in Utah controlled by the “Christian Forum Assembly, LLC,” founded by Von Kiel and his co-conspirators in Montana in May 2011.
Immediately after Von Kiel’s wages were deposited into the “church” bank accounts in Utah, his co-conspirators in Utah would wire that amount, minus a $240 “handling fee,” back to Von Kiel’s True Life Ministries bank accounts in Pennsylvania, court documents say.