On Sunday, ABC News reported several suspects linked to the death of two Louisiana police officers last week belong to the so-called sovereign citizens movement that opposes all government laws.The FBI has tied this bizarre group to crimes ranging from tax evasion to weapons stockpiling to production of fake IDs to insurance fraud.
The movement is scattered across the United States, has no formal leadership, and follows its own set of laws, according to the FBI.
“While the philosophies and conspiracy theories can vary from person to person, their core beliefs are the same,” the FBI says. “The government operates outside of its jurisdiction.”
The movement, which goes back decades, boasts well known members including Terry Nichols, who helped plan the Oklahoma, Okla. bombing in 1995, according to the FBI.
Members of the movement may refer to themselves as either 'constitutionalists' or 'freemen' to indicate that they're free from the government's control.
By 'emancipating' themselves from the government, they free themselves from paying taxes, having a valid state driver's licence, or obeying the law, according to the FBI claims.
As part of their opposition to the federal government, the sovereign citizens have committed a number of white collar crimes from money laundering to tax violations to mail, bank, mortgage and wire fraud.
In February 2010, three sovereign-citizen extremists in Kansas City, Mo. were convicted of charging customers between $450 and $2,000 for a diplomatic ID card that was supposed to give them 'sovereign status,' according to the FBI.
The three extremists told their 'customers' that the ID cards not only gave them immunity from paying taxes but also immunized them from being stopped by law enforcement.
One sovereign extremist apparently was even able to tap into government funds to enrich himself.
In September 2010, Walter Lunsford was sentenced to home detention for using the Federal Reserve's routing numbers to buy five cars worth $150,000, according to the Southern Poverty Law centre, which tracks extremist groups.
Elaine A. and Edward L. Brown -- sovereign extremists in their 60s -- were charged with evading their income taxes and other conspiracy fraud charges but never showed up at their 2007 trial, according to the FBI.
The Browns barricaded themselves at home to protest their trial, stockpiling weapons and issuing threatening statements, the FBI claims. In October 2007, officials discovered pipe bombs, explosive devices, and a 'large cache' of handguns and rifles in their homes.
Sovereign citizens sometimes have documents with odd language, according to the FBI. They make references to the U.S. Constitution, the Bible, and even the Supreme Court.
They often write out their names in all caps or write their last names with a colon (Smith: John), and they follow their signatures with 'under duress' or 'Sovereign Living Soul,' according to the FBI.
Their personal documents also frequently use the phrase 'accepted for value,' and they carry bogus driver's licence with the words 'no liability accepted,' the FBI says.
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