Saturday, June 09, 2007

Feds say no raid on N.H. tax evaders

PLAINFIELD, N.H. -- Federal officials say they had no plans to raid the hilltop home owned by a couple convicted of tax evasion and insist the show of force was just a precaution.

Ed and Elaine Brown, however, say a raid was imminent and was foiled by a man walking a dog near their 110-acre compound Thursday morning.

Ed Brown said Friday that U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier was not being honest when he claimed federal agents were merely conducting surveillance.

"He's lying through his teeth about several things," Brown said. "Did I think the raid was imminent? Yeah. I was notified that they were on their way."

The Browns claim the federal income tax is not legitimate and have drawn support from so-called "patriot" and militia groups. Ed Brown declined to say whether more supporters had arrived at their home Friday.

"I am a United States Constitution Ranger for real. I have more law enforcement authority and lawful jurisdiction than any of these law enforcement agencies do. Hello. We are officers of honor. ... We protect your rights, your guarantees of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness," he said. "They're conducting sedition and treason.

In a video clip posted on a Web site supporting the Browns' cause Thursday night, a man identifying himself as Danny Riley, of Albany, N.Y., said he spotted a man in camouflage in the woods near the end of the long driveway while walking the dog.

"I yelled to him, 'What are you doing, turkey hunting?"' he said. "All of a sudden a guy stood right up in front of me with a full camouflage suit on and yelled, 'Freeze!' At that point I turned around and ran for my life."

Riley, who said he was yelling that he was unarmed, claimed he heard two shots whiz past him as he ran, then more men in camouflage popped up out of the woods on either side of him and told him to freeze. He stopped, and they shocked him and handcuffed him, he said.

They first asked him to try and negotiate the Browns' surrender, then strip-searched and questioned him for hours at a police station in Lebanon, he said. They asked about the Browns' compound, the number of people there and the weapons in the house, he said.

They asked him to return to the Browns' house and tell them only two men had arrested him -- but when he got there, the Browns and their supporters already knew what had really happened, he said. While he was driving home, Riley said he picked up a message on his cell phone from another Brown supporter who said he was arrested when he left their compound to buy groceries.

Monier said the marshals had not arrested anyone else. He said a man walking a dog had been detained, but declined to identify him because he was not arrested. Asked whether shots had been fired, he said no deadly force was used.

"No lethal force was ever employed yesterday -- none," he said Friday morning.

But shows of potential force were employed on Thursday as deputy U.S. marshals seized the office where Elaine Brown was a dentist in neighboring Lebanon. A judge had ordered the property forfeited as part of the couple's sentence for scheming to hide $1.9 million of income between 1996 and 2003.

The Browns have described the federal courts as a "fiction" unworthy of their attention and stopped attending their trial partway through. They also were convicted of using $215,890 in postal money orders to pay for their residence and for the dental office seized Thursday. The money orders were bought in amounts just below the tax-reporting threshold.

They were convicted in January and sentenced in April to begin serving more than five years in federal prison immediately. They did not attend their sentencing hearing and have returned government mail unopened. An appeal they filed earlier has been forwarded to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Monier said the show of force Thursday was because of threats Ed Brown made previously. Brown has said he would die defending himself and his property.

"You know Ed Brown has made a number of statements. We needed to know where he was. We needed to know where his supporters were," he said. "We have no wish to have a violent encounter with either one of them."

The home has a watchtower, concrete walls and the ability to run on wind and solar power. Ed Brown, who has at least one gun, has said he has stockpiled food and supplies and would resist arrest.

Monier said U.S. marshals have negotiated daily with the Browns since January and will continue doing so in hopes of persuading them to surrender peacefully.

On Thursday, the Browns spoke with their supporters by telephone before their phone, cell phone and Internet service were cut off, neighbors were evacuated and police and federal vehicles blocked roads near their home. Their main telephone number was working again Friday.

Monier said officials cut the phone to prevent supporters from flocking to the Browns. They have developed an online following of fellow anti-tax activists, Ron Paul supporters and others who believe in a federal government conspiracy to deprive Americans of their liberties.

Monier made it clear that anyone helping the Browns avoid authorities could be charged.

"Anyone aiding and abetting in their obstruction of justice is subject to arrest," he said.

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