Sovereign Citizens With a Penchant for Filing Liens


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I have to admit that I knew very little about the sovereign citizen movement before I read a New York times article a couple of days ago that opened my eyes to the movement and how some in that movement have attacked government officials and civil service workers.  To fully understand how members of the sovereign citizens movement think, one must know a little about their beliefs.

“Sovereign citizens believe that in the 1800s, the federal government was gradually subverted and replaced by an illegitimate government. They create their own driver’s licenses and include their thumbprints on documents to distinguish their flesh and blood person from a “straw man” persona that they say has been created by the false government. When writing their names, they often add punctuation marks like colons or hyphens.” New York Times

In response to some legitimate concerns over mortgage foreclosure abuses and in response to some imagined governmental abuses, some sovereign citizens members have taken to filing liens against many government officials and these liens negatively impact the personal credit records of these officials and government workers.

One couple in Minnesota have filed over $250 Billion in liens in just a few years.  “But as Sheriff Stanek soon learned, the liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, were just the earliest salvos in a war of paper, waged by a couple who had lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 — a tactic that, with the spread of an anti-government ideology known as the “sovereign citizen” movement, is being employed more frequently as a way to retaliate against perceived injustices.

Over the next three years, the couple, Thomas and Lisa Eilertson, filed more than $250 billion in liens, demands for compensatory damages and other claims against more than a dozen people, including the sheriff, county attorneys, the Hennepin County registrar of titles and other court officials.” New York Times

How can one couple file $250 billion in liens?  It may surprise you that in most states any party can file a lien.  When a claim for a lien is filed and litigated, the facts and evidence will decide whether the lien is valid.  However, how does one go about dealing with liens on your home in the billions?  The time and effort to litigate and clean the title can cost the victims thousands in attorney fees and delay sales and refinances of real estate, not to mention the damage done to victim’s credit ratings.

The FBI has now gotten involved into the false lien filing business and considers the massive filings as a type of “paper terrorism”.  This is one of the few times lately that I agree with the FBI. I find it hard to imagine receiving a title commitment for a sale of my home and reading that someone has filed millions of dollars of liens against the property.  How would you react when you discover millions of dollars in unfounded liens have been placed against the title of your home?

This paper war seems to be increasing across the entire nation.  “In Gadsden, Ala., three people were arrested in July for filing liens against victims including the local district attorney and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. And in Illinois this month, a woman who, like most sovereign citizens, chose to represent herself in court, confounded a federal judge by asking him to rule on a flurry of unintelligible motions.

“I hesitate to rank your statements in order of just how bizarre they are,” the judge told the woman, who was facing charges of filing billions of dollars in false liens.

“The convergence of the evidence strongly suggests a movement that is flourishing,” said Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League. “It is present in every single state in the country.” New York Times

The Illinois case noted above is an especially enlightening case that involved some very high-profile victims of a similar lien filing attack.  “Phillips faces charges that she targeted Fitzgerald, then-Chief Judge James Holderman and other federal judges, prosecutors and court officials by filing bogus liens on their homes in 2011 that sought tens of billions of dollars.

Prosecutors allege Phillips was retaliating after she was physically barred from the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse and forbidden from filing documents on behalf of her brother, Devon, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to drug conspiracy charges.

Her trial features a star-studded cast of witnesses — in legal circles, anyway — with Fitzgerald, Holderman and U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow potentially taking the stand. It was the murder of Lefkow’s husband and mother in 2005 by a crazed litigant that led to a greater sensitivity for the security of federal officials in Chicago.

Phillips, 43, who also goes by the name of River Tali El Bey, has professed in court that she doesn’t recognize the federal system. Her court filings reflect the ideology of sovereign citizens, a rapidly expanding anti-government movement whose adherents often file nonsensical, complex legal documents and refuse to accept or follow court rules.” Chicago Tribune

The Fitzgerald referred to in the Tribune quote was Patrick Fitzgerald, the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The sovereign citizen movement has been around since at least the 1990’s, but these paper attacks are a more recent tactic that has succeeded in clogging court dockets and harming the personal credit of many people.  As the states start writing laws to toughen the penalties for filing false lien claims, the sovereign citizens are continuing to make life miserable for many, good intentioned government officials.

Do you agree with the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center that these tactics constitute paper terrorism?  I think if you ask the victims, they might agree that they have been terrorized.  What can be done to stop these attacks?  Will education of the public about this alleged movement aid in preventing these kind of abusive filings?

In my opinion, I think states should be careful when they are rewriting laws to toughen the penalties for false filings, because if they do not enforce these same laws against the robo signing tactics of some banksters; these types of attacks may continue no matter how the States change or amend their criminal statutes.  What do you think?  I think I may have to do a title search of my home after this article!

55 thoughts on “Sovereign Citizens With a Penchant for Filing Liens”

  1. I haven’t heard all this interview but I saved it last week because it has some of the latest legal news regarding the ongoing RE Fraud by Wallst Banks/Insur/Govt against the people.

    Where’s the SPLC & ADL on this major issue, down in the bottom of an outhouse on some lake?

    Wall Street’s Mortgage Fraud Scandal with David Kreiger

  2. **Since I haven’t noticed enough info posted yet I guess I’ll point Rafflaw/OS/Gene to where they can be schooled by professionals/myself**

    Forgot about sovereign citizens issue for a bit. Currently 60% of ALL USA RE has bad titles because they are part of the nationwide Fraud called MERS.

    If your title has MERS on it you should consider look for professional legal help that has a clear understand of the issues involved.

    Not every lawyer or judge understands how Wallst’s fraud worked & some do & are going along with the Frauds.

    Without basic personal property law & courts that will enforce the peoples “Rights” it is currently & has been unsafe/unwise to invest in any property in the USA since about 2000.

    I used to follow Neil’s website below until I seen Obama sell us all out to his Wallst Bank/Insur backers.

    If your lucky Neil has archives available for your research.

  3. Pretty good job Ross but you’re to easy on SPLC & you left out the horrible rep of the ADL. That’s fine though, this is a huge subject/can of worms, Rafflaw has opened up.

    Since I haven’t notice enough info posted yet I guess I’ll point Rafflaw/OS/Gene to where they can be schooled by professionals/myself that have been in the trenches on the Govt/Wallst Banks/Insurance Co FRAUDS for Decades!!!!!!

    Just looking back & think about what’s happened with the US RE/private property just Pisses me off to no end.

    ** Ross S. Heckmann 1, August 25, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I agree that there is no right to file liens that have no reasonable basis in fact or in law. Those who do so should be civilly liable to whoever they injure. However, I cannot begin to emphasize how disappointed that here, of all places, the word “terrorist” should be abused. There is no reasonable basis for claiming that filing liens is “terrorism.” This rhetorical overkill may be used to justify all of the extremes and injustices of the so-called “war on terrorism” being used against those whose sole wrong consists of the wrongful filing of liens. Theoretically, under the so-called “laws” against terrorism (as mis-interpreted by the executive branch), they could be indefinitely detained or even the subject of assassination as a result. Would you please be more careful in watching the words that you use, and be conscious of how others will abuse them. Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center seems to have a close association with law enforcement, and whatever they put out should be subject to critical scrutiny and verification, and not merely blindly accepted. (It should almost have to go without saying that the same goes for whatever the FBI says. “All governments lie”, as I. F. Stone used to say.

  4. raff,

    Excellent column on a story that had been completely off my radar. It raises some interesting questions about what is the true nature of terrorism and it seems, that much like thievery, terror is a tactic that can be deployed by pen as well as sword. Something meaty to gnaw on when pondering the nature of being at war with a noun.

    Good show.

  5. From article: “the liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, were just the earliest salvos in a war of paper, waged by a couple who had lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 …. The FBI has now gotten involved into the false lien filing business and considers the massive filings as a type of “paper terrorism”.”

    Yeah, yeah, “terrorism” is the new catchphrase, the new tool, for any law enforcement official at any level of government to load on penalties and increase the magnitude of purported criminal or civil lawbreaking. It’s also the ‘nose under the tent flap’ for government at the federal level to claim some jurisdictional hold on a case that normally would be municipal or state or even civil province. Just Google “charged with making terroristic threats”.

    As if the injury to the language wasn’t enough this charge covers everything from disturbing the peace, kids acting out, and a poor choice of words on social media to other, more dangerous threat-making that had been handled for decades, if not centuries, by other statutes. Loading on a threat of “terrorism” or “terroristic” unless someone has a truck full of nerve gas and a map to the nearest federal building (on an act of similar magnitude) is the essence of terrorism itself. Government using or threatening to use a new and nuclear-grade legal weapon against its citizens whimsically is terrorism.

    As to the primary issue, well, I just can’t get worked up about it except that it seems to be big deal when little people do it but (as John above notes), the systematic looting of the property and good name of millions of people, using exactly the same tactic, by the banking industry doesn’t garner much action. It is worth no more than a laughably small negotiated fine/settlement and the promise to go and sin no more. Without actually stopping the practice or putting the underlying mechanisms right.

    If any of those crazy Sovereign Citizens (or anyone else) is taking this step in response to a foreclosed home, and they are putting a lien on everyone from the marshal that moved their possessions to the curb right up to the bank that said it held their mortgage, well, I’m not going to condemn that particular action and it certainly isn’t terrorism. It’s as close to justice as one can hope to get in these times.

    Bah, humbug.

  6. @Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter. Thank you for the deeper insight into this issue. What is “sovict” / “sovcit”? Google has no answers, kept telling me I meant soviet although there were a lot of references to a sovict self propelled gun.

    It does seem bizarre that people can keep filing and appealing ad-nauseum on issues already ruled on multiple times. I also agree this is vexatious.

    My reading of this problem was that people were able to file liens and that the mere filing of the lien had an immediate and deleterious effect on the defendant, my proposal sought to stop the lien being used in this manner and significantly reduce the cost of defending it. It also sought to build a history of technical rulings for a specific lien which would follow it to any appeal process thus making any appeal a mere review. I wasn’t aware a person could file the same lien in different jurisdictions, that’s certainly problematic.

  7. well which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the lien a response to economic terrorism? cause if it is I don’t think you can call it terrorism, it is simply an attempt to protect ones ability to own property which is a fundamental right….

  8. QUOTE “Do you agree with the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center that these tactics constitute paper terrorism?”

    Bush & crew really started something with that “Terrorist” crapola.
    Are Wall St & Bankers terrorists when the knowingly screw you on a mortgage that will, not just tie up your title, but actually cost you your home?

    It all depends on WHY the liens were filed. Wall St & Bankers have grabbed top Government officials on their payroll, HOW ARE the 99% supposed to fight back?

  9. Referencing Gene’s excellent analysis on the front page right now, I am thinking of this labeling as being a creeping expansion of the “War on Terror,” This tactic is annoying and expensive, but can be dealt with short of declaring it a new terror tactic. The FBI web page attempts to explain terrorism thus:

    There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).

    Emphasis mine. Filing liens is not something that would come under terrorism. Harassment, certainly, but not terrorism. Now if they threatened to come break your knees if you did not give them money, that puts it squarely under 28 C.F.R. § 0.85 as a terroristic threat. Actually coming and doing it, mob style, would remove any remaining doubt.

  10. The “Texas Constitution” protects its Nation of people. The republic of Texas came about through a treaty. It is true that Texas does things a little different from Washington D.C.

    Remember: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the united States of America and to the Republic for which it stands”.

  11. be careful letting state legislatures and appointed judges try to “fix” this. we currently have a right to petition for redress of grievances. i’d like to keep it.

  12. Different states do things differently. Generally, the county records are the official land interest records. In some states, attorneys are retained to determine title in real estate transactions. However, in states where title insurance is the norm, the issue in selling or refinancing is whether the title insurance companies will issue a policy. Some companies are more willing to insure over nonsense documents than others. The states also vary as to the legal requirements for a recordable document.

    My state has more technical requirements and the county recorders reject documents which don’t comply. However, it has become enough of a problem that several county district attorneys have started regularly pursuing criminal charges for recording false liens (a crime in my state if intended to harass or affect official action) or associated criminal conduct such as forgery. As a result, actual attempts at recording documents has been reduced. Instead massive packets of documents purporting to be lawsuits, liens, or other official action get mailed to the various officials.

    Many of the documents have been taken from the internet or pamphlets and use legal words but are, basically, unintelligible. It can be quite sad. One guy whose documents I deal with is still hoping to undo a foreclosure completed over 5 years ago with this junk. To the extent he might have had some defense to the foreclosure, he never presented it in a way that could be understood or dealt with and now would be time-barred from doing it right.

  13. @Otteray Scribe. Like I said the problem seems to be the ease with which such action can be taken and the difficulty with which it can be defended.

    I once attended a Colorado court watching the process for people being sued, mostly to remove them from properties for nonpayment of rent / mortgage. This is how it went.

    The room filled up with defendants. At the front were 4 separate groups of lawyers. A court clerk explained this was a chance for both parties to come to a resolution without going before the judge, which would cost the defendants $10 if they wish to take up this right.

    They then read out all the case files (so and so v so and so) like taking attendance. Defendants not at court went on the automatic default judgement pile (aka 3 days to remove themselves from the property or the sheriff would “assist” them for those being evicted -state rules allowed up to 30 days).

    3 of the lawyers then took around 10 cases between them. The remaining lawyer (wearing a Disney Mickey Mouse silk tie no less) took around 30 – 40 cases files. Bear in mind these are people who turned up. Then began a process of the lawyers talking to the individuals to “work something out”.

    Needless to say I paid most attention to the lawyer with by far the most files. His basic MO was to listen to what the person had to say, quite a few sob stories needless to say, when they had finished he would say: “okay this is what I am going to do, I am going to go for a default judgement and that means if you are not out of the property in 3 days the Sheriff will assist you”. They would cry some and then leave. On 3 occassions when I saw him he sympathised and said he would ask for a stay and to revisit the case at a later date. Not one time did anyone think, hang on a minute this is not the judge, I have a right to see the judge that costs me $10 and get a proper ruling instead of this lawyers ruling. In other words aside from the 3 who turned up, who likely could have had their cases dismissed, the rest might have well stayed at home.

    I suspect this is the reality of the court system across the USA with respect to liens, foreclosures and the like.

    I could have seriously f&cked up his day and the courts by advising the
    30 – 40 he saw to pay $10 and see a judge to stand up for their rights. Heck I could have paid the $10 myself. I sometimes feel I should have.

    This is not however an example of difficulty in getting rid of liens so much as ignorance of the legal process and lack of proper advice for those who fall foul of it.

  14. What do you think? I think I may have to do a title search of my home after this article!

    I think you should tell the truth.

    One who files a lien has to perfect it.

    Title Insurance Companies know that.

    Try title insurance for hope and change.

    1. Explain more Dredd, I know the USA have title companies whereas the UK has a central Land Registry responsible for ensuring land titles are kept.

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