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26/07/2012 | US - Money Laundering: ‘Sovereign citizens’ leader convicted in money-laundering scheme

A.P.

A self-proclaimed rabbi, lawyer and leader of a “sovereign citizens” anti-government group was found guilty Tuesday by a federal judge in Las Vegas in a $1.3 million money-laundering scheme.

 

Shawn Rice, 49, waived his right to have a jury hear his case and instead represented himself during the 1 1/2 day trial, arguing that U.S. District Judge James Mahan had no authority to judge him. Most members of the group declare themselves outside governmental jurisdiction and exempt from taxes.

With his wife and followers watching in the courtroom, Rice showed no emotion as Mahan told him the government proved its case, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Rice was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 13 counts of money laundering.


Mahan also found Rice guilty of four charges of failure to appear in court that could result in a minimum of 40 years in prison stemming from nearly two years as a fugitive before his arrest after a 10-hour armed standoff with FBI agents in December at his home in Seligman, Ariz.

Rice remains in federal custody pending sentencing Oct. 24. U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Rice could face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines on the money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Rice and co-defendant Samuel Davis were indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2009, following a three-year undercover FBI investigation involving agents posing as businessmen.

Rice insisted that Davis was an informant for the FBI but told Mahan he couldn’t prove it.

Rice’s only defense witness, Thomas Schaults, 58, was handcuffed and arrested in court Tuesday on outstanding traffic tickets after he left the witness stand in a failed bid to testify. Mahan ruled that Schaults had no relevant information to provide in the case

Rice tried to persuade the judge to let Schaults testify, but Mahan cut him off, accusing him of speaking “gobbledygook” and “gibberish.”

Authorities later identified Schaults as a sovereign citizens leader. The Review-Journal reported he had a Pennsylvania driver’s license in his possession when he was taken to the Clark County jail in Las Vegas.

Davis, 57, whom authorities have identified as a sovereign citizens leader from Idaho, pleaded guilty in March 2011 and was sentenced last November to almost five years in federal prison and ordered to repay almost $96,000 in restitution. Davis didn’t surrender in June for his prison term and is considered a fugitive.

Undercover FBI Agent Mark Aysta, who infiltrated the group in 2006, testified Monday that sovereign citizens’ teachings were distributed nationwide from a Las Vegas printing business.

In court documents, prosecutor Gregory Damm characterized the ideology as extreme, founded on conspiracy theories, inaccurate history and “irrational interpretations of the law.”

Mohave Daily News (Estados Unidos)

 


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