This section attempts, among other things, to construct what in biology is called a phylogeny: a family tree of related existing species and their ancestors. This tool helps explain the interrelationships of those organisms and the selective pressures that led to their appearance, divergence, and extinction. This OPCA phylogeny traces the development of groups, false but allegedly legal concepts, and key personalities. The last category is unusual. Ideas, rather than people, are usually the lynchpin of legal phenomena, but here a small number of critical persons were the direct cause of much of what is encountered today. These are the OPCA gurus: the conmen who, for a price, assembled and disseminated OPCA concepts to customers who wanted to learn the secrets that would unlock special, supralegal status. To use another biological analogy, these are the Typhoid Marys of the OPCA phenomenon, who spread a disease of ideas as they travelled, often at great price to their customers, and sometimes, to themselves.
The OPCA Movement in general, maintain as a fundamental principle, that long ago an evil conspiracy infiltrated and replaced the original “de jure” government with an illegitimate, tyrannical “de facto” government. Hence they claim that this “de facto” government has no authority or jurisdiction over them, which allows them to rationalize ignoring or breaking virtually any tax, law, regulation, or court order. Todays OPCA movement is likewise dominated by a coterie of gurus who perpetuate the earlier movement’s failed pseudo-legal theories, as well as its often-illegal tactics, and teach them to their followers.
The contemporary sovereign belief system 1 is based on a decades-old conspiracy theory. At some point in history, sovereigns believe, the American government set up by the founding fathers — with a legal system the sovereigns refer to as “common law” — was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce. Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way. Some sovereigns believe this perfidious change occurred during the Civil War, while others blame the events of 1933, when the U.S. abandoned the gold standard. Either way, they stake their lives and livelihoods on the idea that judges around the country know all about this hidden government takeover but are denying the sovereigns’ motions and filings out of treasonous loyalty to hidden and malevolent government forces.
Though this all sounds bizarre, the next layer of the argument becomes even more implausible. Since 1933, the U.S. dollar has been backed not by gold, but by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government (in fact, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ended private ownership of gold in large amounts in 1933; governments could still sell gold for dollars to the U.S. Treasury for a fixed amount after that, until that practice was ended by President Richard Nixon in 1971). According to sovereign “researchers,” this means that the government has pledged its citizenry as collateral, by selling their future earning capabilities to foreign investors, effectively enslaving all Americans. This sale, they claim, takes place at birth. When a baby is born in the U.S., a birth certificate is issued, and the hospital usually requires that the parents apply for a Social Security number at that time. Sovereigns say that the government then uses that birth certificate to set up a kind of corporate trust in the baby’s name — a secret Treasury account — which it funds with an amount ranging from $600,000 to $20 million, depending on the particular variant of the sovereign belief system. By setting up this account, every newborn’s rights are cleverly split between those held by the flesh and-blood baby and the ones assigned to his or her corporate shell account.
The sovereigns believe evidence for their theory is found on the birth certificate itself. Since most certificates use all capital letters to spell out a baby’s name, JOHN DOE, for example, is actually the name of the corporate shell identity, or “straw man,” while John Doe is the baby’s “real,” flesh-and-blood name. As the child grows older, most of his legal documents will utilize capital letters, which means that his state issued driver’s license, his marriage license, his car registration, his criminal court records, his cable TV bill and correspondence from the IRS all will pertain to his corporate shell identity, not his real, sovereign identity. The process sovereigns have devised to split the straw man from the flesh-and-blood man is called “redemption,” and its purpose is two-fold. Once separated from the corporate shell, the newly freed man is now outside of the jurisdiction of all admiralty laws. More importantly, by filing a series of complex, legal sounding documents, the sovereign can tap into that secret Treasury account for his own purposes.
Over the past 30 years, hundreds of sovereigns 2 have attempted to perfect the process by packaging and promoting different combinations of forms and paperwork. While no one has ever succeeded, for the obvious reason that these theories are not true, sovereigns are nonetheless convinced with the re ligious certainty of a true cult believer that they’re close. All it will take, say the promoters of the redemption scam, is the right combination of words. While the techniques sold by promoters never perform as promised, most followers are nonetheless content to be fighting the battle, and they blame only the judges, lawyers, prosecutors and police when their gurus’ methods fail. While most have never achieved financial success in life, they take pride in engaging the government in battle, comparing themselves to the founding fathers during the American Revolution.
This OPCA phylogeny ultimately begins with the Posse Comitatus Movement, 3 an anti-Semitic group started by the late white supremacist leader William Potter Gale, that raged through the U.S. Midwest from around 1969 onwards. The movement is the origin and source of the earliest “strawman” theory. They distinguished between so-called “14th Amendment citizens,” who are subject to federal and state governments, and themselves, who they saw as “organic citizens”.
Written statutes, they argued, were actually tyrannical “admiralty laws”, never meant for dry land. They believed all government acts to be optional and only enforceable on individuals who consented to them. They claimed as long as they did not acknowledge statutory law or the judiciary, they were exempt from prosecution – as well as from taxation, debt and road rules.
Its members rejected all authority higher than the county sheriff, accepted only the first twelve Amendments as legally binding, and believed that an international Zionist conspiracy had taken control of the U.S. government. They claimed the right to defend the U.S. Constitution, forming their own courts and arresting public officials who were acting unconstitutionally.
The pseudo legal concepts of the Posse Comitatus developed further during the farm crisis of the 1980’s, on the wave of the Tax Protestor and Patriot Movements. A combination of factors at the time, including the embargo of grain exports to the Soviet Union, falling land values, and rising interest rates, had forced many farm families into bankruptcy. The Posse’s legal theories – presented in seminars – claimed farmers could refuse to pay taxes on constitutional grounds and keep federal agents from seizing their land.
In the 1980s, Roger Elvic instructed people on “common law” 4 and was the first promoter to effectively distribute a redemption scheme to an eager and desperate audience of Midwest farmers. He is generally acknowledged as the founding father of the modern redemption movement.
Elvic was at the time the national spokesperson for Committee of the States, another white supremacist group Elvick started with William Potter Gale. While phony Federal Reserve checks and similar programs had been used earlier by far right promoters Tupper Saussy and Conrad LeBeau, Elvick and Gale were the first to dress up the scam with the legalistic terminology that now characterizes the sovereign citizens movement and sovereign redemption techniques.
The Durant Daily Democrat, July 1987: OFFICIALS WARN: BEWARE OF FARM LOAN SCAM 5
The redemption theory associates the Strawman fiction with Fractional Reserve banking, the end of the Gold Standard, the creation of the Federal Reserve and its concept of value based on the future earnings of citizens. His theory was that for every birth certificate issued in the U.S. since the 1936 Social Security Act, the federal government deposits $630,000 in a hidden bank account linked to the person. By correct application of the Uniform Commercial Code, and by executing a series of arcane legal maneuvers, he theorised one can “reclaim” this strawman, and access the cash held in the name of the entity created at their birth, write checks against its accounts, and avoid paying taxes.
When Elvic shared the abstracts with students at the Inns of Law of Wisconsin his group of “disciples” and other sovereign citizens became gurus travelling the country holding seminars and selling manuals and videos, explaining redemption theory and its various associated tactics. By 1990, Redemption groups advised by Elvick were active in 30 states and several provinces of Canada, and had tried to pass more than $15 million in bad checks.
As a result of issuing such checks, Elvick spent seven years in the 1990s in federal prison, 6 where he further fleshed out his scheme, passing on the information to his gurus outside. In 2003, he was arrested again by the state of Ohio and charged with forgery, extortion, and corruption.
During preliminary hearings, Elvick frustrated court officials by denying his identity, claiming the court had no jurisdiction over him or his straw man, and constantly interrupting with unfathomable questions about procedure. A judge ruled Elvick mentally unfit to stand trial and committed him to a correctional psychiatric facility, where he was diagnosed with an “unclassified mental disorder” and underwent nine months of treatment before facing trial.
Elvick surprised prosecutors by changing his plea to guilty at the trial, he was sentenced to four years in prison, and was released in September 2007. The Southern Poverty Law Centre describes Elvic’s strategies in their earlier 2005 article Patriots for Profit. 7 According to SPLC: 8
“Elvick claims he has liberated his “straw man,” a secret doppelganger created by the U.S. government to capture the economic value of U.S. citizens who, according to the Redemption doctrine, have unknowingly been sold into slavery to a Jewish-run international banking cabal. But while Elvick’s straw man is free—at least in his own mind—the rest of him is back in prison.”
A few early cases of people following Elvick’s theories:
“Hildebrandt was a Minnesota farmer who had serious financial troubles during the 1980s. When the bank that had acted as his lender stopped covering checks for which he lacked sufficient funds and also stopped extending him additional credit, Hildebrandt could not keep up the payments on his farm. The State of Minnesota, which held the mortgage, then foreclosed on his property. Hildebrandt then discovered the teachings of one Roger Elvick, who s old tapes and other materials that informed farmers about their supposed legal rights. Hildebrandt obtained a package of taped and written materials called “Introduction to Redemption.” Following Elvick’s teachings, Hildebrandt sent IRS Form 1099 to various individuals whom he believed had conspired to take away his farm and deprive him of his legal rights. Recipients included law enforcement personnel, judges, lenders, attorneys, and creditors who had been involved in some fashion with the foreclosure on Hildebrandt’s farm or with other legal proceedings involving Hildebrandt. The district court sentenced him to one year in prison followed by a two-year period of supervised release, and for the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court.”
“Appellant did not file income tax returns for the years 1977 through 1980 and he was assessed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the unpaid taxes and penalties. When his tax liability remained unpaid, his residence was ultimately seized, a deed was issued in favor of the United States, and the Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal district court to quiet title and to evict appellant from the property. During these legal proceedings, appellant purchased a “redemption program” from Roger Elvick for $200.00 and became involved in a retaliation scheme against several internal revenue officials, a U.S. Marshall, two federal district court judges and many other individuals who played a part in the tax assessment, levy and collection process. Appellant ignores the overwhelming evidence that he acted willfully and corruptly. There is no evidence to dispute the finding that appellant acted voluntarily and intentionally in filing the false tax return and tax forms. He voluntarily made the decision to purchase and use Roger Elvick’s “redemption program,” and he admitted that he did not pay any of the purported recipients any of the amounts reflected on the 1099 Forms. Because he knew he never paid the individuals, he could not have believed that the forms, which he signed under penalties of perjury, were in fact true and correct. Based on the foregoing, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.”
“Wiley and Roger Elvick conceived of a scenario in which various individuals would claim enormous refunds on their tax returns and execute instruments purporting to be certified IRS sight drafts against the refunds, payable to Wiley or Elvick, who would negotiate the counterfeit drafts for legitimate negotiable instruments. Wiley sent two of these sight drafts to Thomas Nathan Cox, a business associate in Austin, Texas. The first was drawn by one Arnold Hilgeford in the amount of $990,000 and arrived via Federal Express with instructions from Wiley to open a brokerage account, 367*367 to buy tax-exempt bonds and not to “use an attorney or accountant.” Cox took the draft to Prudential-Bache Securities. Its suspicions aroused by the multiple endorsements, PrudentialBache notified the IRS and declined to accept the draft. The next day Cox was arrested by the Treasury Division of the IRS. Offering to cooperate with the government, he tendered a second package from Wiley containing another draft similar to the first, this one written by one Marvin E. Arlien to Wiley in the amount of $1,000,100. Wiley was indicted for passing counterfeit United States obligations with intent to defraud, 18 U.S.C. § 472, possessing counterfeit documents with intent to defraud the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 1002, and conspiracy to engage in these offenses, 18 U.S.C. § 371. Because of a previous felony conviction, he was indicted for felony possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a). While in jail awaiting trial, Wiley filed a Currency Transaction Report falsely stating that the magistrate judge who had handled certain preliminary aspects of his case had engaged in a $4 million transaction with the undercover agent who had represented himself as a broker. Wiley also was indicted for this offense, 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Choosing to represent himself with the aid of stand-by counsel, Wiley was convicted by a jury on all counts and sentenced to 78 months’ imprisonment. In this appeal, the convictions and sentences are hereby affirmed.”
“Defendants were convicted of conspiring to file false Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms and filing false forms 1096 and 1099, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). Yant was also convicted of submitting false 1040 forms requesting refunds. Carlson, Erickson, Rosnow, and Roger Sands were convicted of violating 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a) by attempting to impede or obstruct an IRS investigation. “
“Devore testified that Salman and he had spent “literally hundreds of hours” researching various aspects of the work of Roger Elvick, including how to create a fictitious sight draft. Devore testified that as Salman and Devore created the sight drafts, Devore questioned Elvick, in writing and by phone, about the procedures he recommended. In a letter to Elvick, Devore explained that he and Salman wanted to ensure that if Salman was ever “dragged into court,” he would be “laughing all the way to the bank.” On September 16, 2004, the jury found Salman guilty of all four counts, two counts of passing a fictitious financial instrument, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 514(a)(2), and two counts of attempting corruptly to interfere with the administration of the internal revenue laws, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a). On January 21, 2005, the district court entered judgment, sentencing Salman to 12 months of imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently, and five years of supervised release.”
“In 1998, defendant Rodger Yates was serving a sentence in federal prison for activities involving the “Montana Freemen” at the same time that defendant Jerry Allen Chase was serving a sentence for violating income tax laws. Chase testified that Yates told him that he and Roger Elvick were perfecting a scheme using false financial instruments that appeared to be drawn on the United States. Yates enlisted the aid of individuals outside prison; namely, Joan Anderson, her common law husband Arthur Modderman, and Phillip Leroy (a.k.a. PJ) Hammond (who has not appealed). Yates, who was in prison for having used earlier forms of fictitious instruments, told Chase that the new “sight draft” theory was “more sound” than earlier schemes.
During that same time frame, defendants Ruth Shriver and her husband Jack Shriver were in financial trouble with the IRS. The Shrivers communicated with Elvick and his partner, Roger Knutt, both of whom had recently been released from prison and claimed to have recovered their farm using false sight drafts. In late summer 1998, PJ Hammond ordered thousands of blank sight drafts from a commercial printing company. The drafts were paid for by someone named “Ruth.” On September 9, 1998, the Shrivers sent the IRS a sight draft appearing to be drawn on the United States Treasury in the amount of $1.75 million. Although the IRS initially credited the Shrivers in that amount, the credit was reversed. Within a week of the first sight draft, six other codefendants each wrote similar sight drafts to the IRS (including appellants Sagorski, Hammond, Anderson, and Modderman).
The evidence showed that Anderson and Modderman explained the “redemption theory” and instructed others how to write the sight drafts and fill out the false 8300s. One witness, Diana Arndt-Mammen (Arndt), testified that Anderson and Modderman offered the sight-draft scheme as a way for her to resolve her severe financial problems, showed her how to fill out the sight drafts and false 8300s, and asked if she had filed false 8300s against those who rejected the sight drafts. Another coconspirator, Herbert Lawrence, testified that Anderson and Modderman instructed him on how to use the false 8300s to “bring the IRS down” on officials and other individuals to harass them. Anderson and Modderman also told Lawrence to avoid lawyers, that he did not have to obey the corrupt court system, and that he would be protected if he recited their “shield” or “mantra.”
Use of the mantra was taught as part of the scheme and was recited by various defendants through all stages of the proceedings. It was part of the refusal to cooperate with the grand jury and in contempt proceedings. At trial, each of the defendants — except for Sagorski, Dewey Metcalf, Sr., and Dewey Metcalf, Jr. — disrupted the trial by standing and reciting the mantra. This disruption involved several defendants rising together, repeatedly reciting the mantra and being removed from the courtroom. The first time, seven defendants were removed. The next day, a total of nine defendants were removed. With that, the district court decided, after consulting with counsel, that the nine defendants would be allowed to return only if they gave assurances that they would not disrupt the proceedings any further. Unwilling to give any assurances, none of the nine were present in the courtroom for the rest of the trial. Defendants were convicted on all counts and, after sentencing, timely notices of appeal were filed on behalf of Anderson, Modderman, Yates, Sagorski, Sloboda, Goodwin and Shriver. The convictions and sentences were affirmed.”
15 In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the newer notion of a “Strawman” slowly replaced the “14th Amendment Citizen” 16 perception held by previous movements, aided by the inclusion of Elvic’s redemption theory. The Sovereign Citizen Movement was already gaining popularity among a sizable sector of U.S. society, but redemption theory added a tasty financial incentive to the ideology. The “Redemption” process is now more commonly referred to as “Accepted for Value” or “A4V”. 17
- 1 http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sovereign_citizen
- 2 https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/sovereign-citizens-movement
- 3 http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus
- 4 Roger Elvick The Lost Tapes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k52i-hqYAqE
- 5 Committee of States http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=svxDAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SrAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1961,481979&dq=roger-elvick+committeeof-states&hl=en
- 6 http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/summer/patriots-for-profit
- 7 https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/sovereign-citizens-movement
- 8 https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/sovereigns-leaders-movemen t https://freemandelusion.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/his-straw-man-free-a-scammer-finds-the-rest-of-him-isnt-_-southern-poverty-law-center.pdf
- 9 http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=%22961+F.2d+116%22&hl=en&as_sdt=3,44&case=6863297395534722288&scilh=0 https://freemandelusion.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/us-v.-hildebrandt-961-f.-2d-116-court-of-appeals-8th-circuit-1992-google-scholar.pdf
- 10 https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=3521022083233321327&as_sdt=5,44&sciodt=3,44&hl=en
- 11 http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=%22979+F.2d+365%22&hl=en&as_sdt=3,44&case=14837625407775327644&scilh=0 https://freemandelusion.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/us-v.-wiley-979-f.-2d-365-court-of-appeals-5th-circuit-1992-google-scholar.pdf
- 12 https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=10823272754211512095&q=U.S.+V+Rosnow,+Nos.+93-1153,+93-1154,+93-1156+to+93-1159+(1993)+Eighth+Circuit+Court+of+Appeals&hl=en&as_sdt=3,44 https://freemandelusion.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/us-v.-rosnow-9-f.-3d-728-court-of-appeals-8th-circuit-1993-google-scholar.pdf
- 13 http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=0510093+Elvick+%22Salman%22&hl=en&as_sdt=3,44&case=10020541125682714263&scilh=0 https://freemandelusion.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/united-states-v.-salman-531-f.-3d-1007-court-of-appeals-9th-circuit-2008-google-scholar.pdf
- 14 https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=%20F.3d%20490&hl=en&as_sdt=3%2C44&case=18178817432486123682&scilh=0&fbclid=IwAR2BUljImX4F-9g9mnGyQcZaEXVyOgx1IEfruNLGgboTf7cSRpwNh1BmjUg https://freemandelusion.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/us-v.-anderson-353-f.-3d-490-court-of-appeals-6th-circuit-2003-google-scholar.pdf
- 15 http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Redemption_movement
- 16 http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Strawman_theory
- 17 Meads, at paras 531–43. The US variation is discussed by Michelle Theret, “Sovereign Citizens: A Homegrown Terrorist Threat and its Negative Impact on South Carolina” (2012) at 864–65; United States v Phillips (2 October 2014), ND Ill, Doc 1:12-CR-872 at 15–16.