Note: This story was last updated at 4:05 p.m.
The 10 men arrested in February after a year-long investigation into fraudulent liens filed in East Tennessee have filed about $2 billion worth of liens against local officials and law enforcement officers, as well as local, state, and federal agencies—and others, including corporations and law firms, according to state records released Monday.
The liens filed by the 10 men have a range of collateral values, but many of them are for $4 million, $8 million, and $12 million. The liens have been filed against county mayors and sheriffs, police chiefs and officers, and prosecutors and judges, among others. At least some of the liens are alleged to be fraudulent.
A summary of the liens, listed in spreadsheet format, was released Monday by the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett in response to a request from Oak Ridge Today.
A lien is a claim that one person owes something to another. Liens can be filed online in Tennessee, although filing a fraudulent lien is a criminal offense.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that the actions of the 10 men are common within the sovereign citizen ideology.
Sovereign citizens don’t recognize governmental authority or law enforcement, they reject the concept of U.S. citizenship, and they have sometimes been associated with violence, according to state and local officials.
“When arrested or challenged, they typically try to bog down the criminal justice system with nonsensical court filings or to intimidate or complicate their legal cases by filing baseless liens against everyone involved,” Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark said in February.
The East Tennessee liens first started gaining widespread attention after Anderson County Criminal and Circuit Judge Don Elledge had to recuse himself last year from a vehicular homicide case involving Lee Harold Cromwell, 68, of Oak Ridge, because of liens that Cromwell had filed against Elledge.
TBI special agents began their investigation at the request of Clark in May 2016. That was about the time that Elledge learned that Cromwell had filed a lien against him.
The TBI said the report it received was that, over a period of several years, multiple people from East Tennessee had filed Uniform Commercial Code liens and financing statements with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office in Nashville. The liens were filed against dozens of different people across the state, encumbering their property, the TBI said. The victims who had these liens filed against them included people employed by government agencies, police officers and attorneys, and elected and appointed officials, including city and county mayors, sheriffs, and members of the judiciary.
The case was ultimately assigned to a special prosecutor with the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office. (Nashville and the Secretary of State’s Office, where the liens were filed, are in Davidson County). On January 24, the Davidson County Grand Jury returned indictments charging 11 people with a combined total of 320 counts of two charges: draw a lien without a legal basis, which is a Class E felony, and forgery of $250,000 or more, a Class A felony.
The 10 men arrested on February 16 were arrested by teams that included agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The arrests in Anderson, Cocke, Greene, and Knox counties also included officers from other state and local law enforcement agencies.
Here is the collateral value of the liens filed by those arrested last month, according to the records released Monday by the Tennessee Secretary of State. Half of those arrested in February live in Anderson County. [Read more…]