OXFORD — A Riverside man was in the Oxford City Jail on Friday, facing multiple charges for what police allege are his attempts to steal more than $1 million from local businesses.
Police are searching for the man’s common-law wife, also charged in connection with the alleged crimes.
Both are members of the sovereign citizens’ movement, said Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge, speaking at a press conference Friday. Partridge described the movement as anti-government, in which members file erroneous court documents and believe many U.S. laws do not apply to them.
Everett Leon Stout, 72, was arrested Thursday by Oxford police. His bond is set at $510,000. Police are looking for Stout’s common-law wife, Miriam Claire Shultz, 67, who is thought to be in the Jackson County area, police said.
Both have been charged with attempted theft of property, one count of first-degree extortion and 13 counts of attempted extortion, Partridge said.
A two-week undercover investigation by the Oxford police, the FBI and the Calhoun County District Attorney’s Office revealed the couple’s attempt to steal millions from Oxford businesses, Partridge said.
Stout and Shultz attempted to buy a $300,000 recreational vehicle from Dandy RV in Oxford by paying with a fraudulent check linked to a fictitious bank account, Partridge said. The couple also filed fictitious liens against 13 other local businesses and demanded money in exchange for dropping those liens, Partridge said. In total, the couple tried to extort $1.6 million from those businesses, he said.
Although the couple received no money from those businesses, the crime of extortion occurs when the money is requested, said Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh, speaking at the press conference.
Partridge called such people “paper terrorists” because he said their legal filings and fraudulent documents clog up the courts and can create problems for business owners in getting financing.
The couple’s alleged crimes were not violent, but Partridge warned that the sovereign citizens’ movement can be deadly, pointing to two police officers who were killed in Arkansas in May 2010 by father and son sovereign citizens.
Stout and Shultz were both arrested in June 2013 on charges of filing false documents with court officials in Etowah County. In court documents Stout refers frequently to “common law” which the Southern Poverty Law Center states is a term used by sovereign citizens to denote what they say is the original set of founding U.S. laws. The Montgomery-based Law Center tracks hate groups and certain domestic terror networks.
Partridge asked local businesses to report such encounters with sovereign citizens to police.
“We’re not going to tolerate the type of behavior that’s going on in our community,” Partridge said.