Sovereign citizens leader, fugitive from Las Vegas, arrested in North Dakota

A fugitive national leader in the anti-government "sovereign citizens" movement has been arrested in North Dakota.

Samuel Davis, facing a 57-month prison term for his role in a $1.3 million money laundering scheme in Las Vegas, was taken into custody Aug. 7 by sheriff's deputies in the tiny community of White Earth, in northwest North Dakota, court records show. White Earth had a population of 80 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Davis, 57, who lives in Idaho, is among tens of thousands of Americans who have declared themselves sovereign citizens above the government's jurisdiction and not obligated to pay taxes.

An arrest warrant for Davis was issued in Las Vegas on June 29 after he failed to surrender to federal authorities to serve his time behind bars.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan sentenced Davis to prison last October after he pleaded guilty in the money laundering scheme days before his trial was to start.

His co-defendant, Shawn Rice, a self-proclaimed attorney and rabbi from Arizona, was convicted last month after a bench trial. Rice, 49, who waived a jury trial and defended himself, was a fugitive for nearly two years until his arrest in Arizona last December. Mahan is to sentence him Oct. 24.

Both defendants were indicted in March 2009 after a three-year undercover FBI investigation into activities of the sovereign citizens in Las Vegas. Agents assigned to the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force had infiltrated the group, which taught its anti-government leanings to a nationwide following out of a print shop.

Davis, who once referred to himself as "I am: Sam" in court documents as a symbol of his refusal to recognize the establishment, has been described by authorities as a national movement leader who travels the country teaching its ideology.

At Rice's trial, prosecutors played videotapes of Davis discussing the money laundering scheme with the undercover agents, who posed as shady businessmen. The agents portrayed the money as coming from the theft and forgery of official bank checks.

The defendants funneled the money they got from the FBI agents into bank accounts they controlled outside Nevada and then returned it to undercover accounts set up by the agents after deducting their fees, trial testimony showed.

Davis took nearly $74,000 in fees, and Rice took about $22,000, prosecutors said.

Davis and Rice accused the government of entrapping them.