A sovereign citizen who engaged in “paper terrorism” by filing bogus commercial liens and attempting to extort millions from his former employers and government officials has been found guilty in New Orleans of 30 counts of mail fraud.
Melvin Lewis II, 53, of Gretna, La., filed the liens against people he accused of violating his “common law copyright” by speaking or writing his name without permission, it was alleged in a complaint filed against him in U.S. District Court.
For those alleged violations, Lewis sent certified letters through the U.S. Postal Service, filing liens ranging from $653,000 to $3 million on property owned by employees of his former employer, a police sergeant who had written him a ticket and a judge, charging documents alleged.
His actions caught the attention of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force which opened an investigation in 2014, leading to his arrest that year.
Following a one-day, non-jury trial, Lewis was found guilty on June 21 by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Times-Picayune reported. Sentencing is set for Oct. 13.
“Lewis used commercial liens and extortion letters in an attempt to force the victims in this investigation to pay him money for perceived injustice,” the FBI case agent said in a court affidavit.
It identified Lewis as a sovereign citizen who does not recognize federal, state, or local laws, policies or regulations, and sometimes use the Uniform Commercial Code to renounce their U.S. citizenship, believing that this places them beyond the scope of authority.
Court documents say Lewis, who has a prior criminal record, was employed as a longshoreman in Louisiana, working at an onshore tool room at Dynamic Industries from February through July 2013. When he didn’t get a higher paying offshore position he demanded, he stopped showing up for work and started drafting and mailing bogus legal paperwork.
Lewis sent a “certificate of service” and a “conditional acceptance request for proof of claim” to the chief financial officer of Dynamic Industries, demanding payment of $376,000 within 10 days. If that payment wasn’t paid, Lewis claimed the amount went to $676,480, then to $1 million.
When those claims were ignored, Lewis filed commercial liens on personal property owned by the business executive and his wife in Jefferson Parish, La., court documents say. Lewis filed similar bogus paperwork with two other company supervisors and the company attorney.
When he was stopped by a Westwego, La., police sergeant in August 2013, Lewis asked if he was being asked to produce his proof of insurance “under duress.” He was cited for speeding and no proof of insurance, and only reluctantly signed the ticket, court documents say.
Just three days later, the police officer received a “Certificate of Service,” a “Bill Notice for Violating Copyright,” and a copy of the original “Common Law Copyright Notice,” the documents say. Lewis demanded $1 million to be paid immediately or a suit would be filed against the officer.
The next month, a follow-up “notice of Demand for Payment” claimed the officer now owed Lewis $2.2 million. When that was ignored, Lewis filed a $3 million commercial lien in October 2013 on property owned by the officer and his wife.
But his fraudulent sovereign filings didn’t end there.
When he appeared in 24th Judicial District Court to respond to a civil case filed by his former employer, Lewis locked horns with Judge Stephen Grefer, the documents say.
When the judge asked Lewis to come forward, Lewis said he would respond only by reserving all his rights under the Uniform Commercial Code. The judge “advised Lewis [he] would be afforded all of the rights [to] which he was entitled,” court documents say.
The sovereign citizen then told the judge, “The name that you just called is my trademark copyright and my private property.” He threatened the judge with a hefty fine, adding: “I do not consent to these proceedings nor do I consent to the use of my copyright. I am in my original, private jurisdiction, a private, free man of the Republic of Louisiana and the United States of Louisiana.”
Four months later, the judge received a certified letter from Lewis, demanding he pay $102 million within 10 days or face criminal charges for forcing Lewis into a contract.