A federal jury late Tuesday convicted a Pinson man and member of an anti-government Sovereign Citizens group for mailing a fictitious financial instrument to pay off his home mortgage, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr.
The jury convicted Donald Joe Barber, 64, of mailing a fictitious “bonded promissory note” to his mortgage servicing company on March 10, 2008, in a fraudulent effort to satisfy his mortgage
. Barber presented the fraudulent $10 million note as if it were a valid financial instrument drawn on a secret U.S. government account. U.S. District Judge Inge P. Johnson scheduled Barber’s sentencing for July 31.
“Self-appointed ‘sovereign citizens’ preach an extremist, anti-government ideology to their followers and teach a myth about American history that is untrue,” Vance said. “They often use this mythical ideology to justify crime. Sovereign citizens may disavow the authority of the U.S. government, but it exists and my office will use it to prosecute those who break the law,” she said.
“The guilty verdict handed down in this case should serve as a deterrent to others who claim to be “sovereign citizens” and attempt to use a redemption scheme to fail to pay just debts,” Schwein said. “All citizens should be wary of individuals or groups that claim they can inform you on secret bank accounts, and should report that activity to the FBI,” he said.
The FBI describes members of the sovereign citizen movement in the U.S. as U.S. citizens who openly reject their citizenship status and claim to exist beyond the realm of government authority. Affiliates may use their self-appointed status to justify threats, violence or crime, including theft and fraud.
The maximum sentence for this crime is 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan K. Buchanan and Michael W. Whisonant Sr.