A veteran sheriff’s deputy who, until a couple of days ago, investigated property crimes in Bibb County, Ga., was arrested and fired Wednesday for allegedly trying to commit a property crime of his own that came straight out of the antigovernment “sovereign citizen” handbook of scams and schemes.
The deputy, Albert Gordon Murray, 53, was seen last week, according to The Telegraph, changing the locks on a vacant $140,000 house he did not own after allegedly filing false liens and possession affidavits for the property – standard operating procedure for sovereign citizen real estate hustles. Sovereigns generally believe the government has no authority over them, and they are given to a variety of financial schemes including the seizure of homes that don’t belong to them.
A real estate agent with a prospective buyer in tow arrived at the house while Murray was still there, fiddling with the locks. Murray showed the agent a document. He said it was an "affidavit of possession," Bibb County Sheriff David Davis told Hatewatch Friday afternoon, adding the agent was immediately suspicious, saying to himself, "Wait a minute, this ain't right."
The sheriff said as the agent was studying the bogus document, Murray pulled the client to the side and brazenly offered to sell him the house for $60,000 – a real steal, in more ways than one. As Murray drove away, the agent jotted down the plate number on the deputy’s unmarked government vehicle and notified authorities. "He's out there in an unmarked sheriff's car, conducting this business," Davis said. "It's disheartening."
A few days later, Murray and three associates – Dimitrious Brown, 33, Clifford Greene, 58 and Lemroyal James, 51 – were in handcuffs, charged with making false statements and writings. Murray was also charged with violating his oath as a lawman and was fired.
When they were arrested, the sheriff said, "they all professed these sovereign citizen ideals about they're not part of this government, they're not bound by our laws."
One of the men even refused to sign his fingerprint card, declaring, "I don't do this. I'm not part of your laws."
Davis' former deputy did not go nearly as far in his sovereign citizen pronouncements. "The other three were pretty resolute in what they were saying," the sheriff said. "But I think they were all more in it for the scam and the houses than the ideology."
Davis told The Telegraph that one of the men was arrested while “filing a lien at the courthouse” and authorities have reportedly found at least four other houses in the area that the men allegedly claimed as their own in a similar fraudulent fashion.
Investigators, Davis told Hatewatch, suspect the men may have filed phony liens on upward of two dozen properties in Bibb and in two adjoining counties. "It was sort of a big operation," he said.
Murray had been in law enforcement for years before his colleagues locked him up. He joined the police force in Macon, Ga., in 2001 and became a Bibb County deputy sheriff in 2014, when the departments merged.
Davis said that during his days in the Macon police department, Murray had ties to the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. That group was originally a putatively Muslim organization from Brooklyn, N.Y., that evolved into a cult, preaching not a “theology” but “factology,” mixing black supremacist ideas with worship of the Egyptians and their pyramids and a belief in UFOs.
In 1993, a large group of true believers moved from New York to a 476-acre spread in Putnam County, Ga., northeast of Bibb County. The Moors were led by an ex-con named Dwight York, who lived in a mansion on the property while his followers lived in cheap trailers. He charged them $25 a year for Nuwaubian “passports” that allowed them to get on and off the property.
As many as 400 other followers – also Nuwaubians – lived in the surrounding area. The group set up a network of chapters and bookstores called All Eyes on Egipt and members raised money through begging and holding jobs, including in the post office and in area fire and police departments.
The former deputy, the sheriff said, "was a member of the sect."
In 2004, York was sentenced to 135 years in prison for molesting a huge number of children, among other crimes. That same year, according to The Telegraph, seven Macon police officers, supporters of York, resigned, saying police and government officials were ignoring new evidence of York’s innocence.
The police chief at the time, Rodney Monroe, told the paper that he did not want the officers to resign and each one had “served the department and city well.”
Davis said Murray and one other officer associated with the Moors refused to join the mass resignation and "the other guys got mad at them and kicked them out of the club so to speak."
The year before, three suspected Nuwaubians were taken into custody after allegedly filing a bogus $283 million lien against U.S. Postal Service bank accounts and property. The police said the men then created fake checks – they called them “certified tender of payment certificates” – and tried to use them to buy two luxury houses in Decatur.
Authorities said the men, two of whom worked for the postal service, intended to sell the homes and use the cash to purchase land in Bibb County to establish a new home for the cult.
While their numbers have dwindled dramatically since the cult leader went to prison, Davis said there are still Nuwaubians in the area. "And," he said, "they still believe in some of that ideology."