Convicted ‘sovereign citizen’ sentenced Wednesday in Las Vegas

Thomas Benson, who authorities say follows anti-government “sovereign citizen” ideology, was given probation this week for filing bogus real estate paperwork in Las Vegas.

Benson had pleaded guilty to two felonies in January, each from separate cases against him. Senior District Judge Joseph Bonaventure on Wednesday gave him five years of probation and a suspended prison sentence of 24 to 60 months in one case, and District Judge Kathleen Delaney on Monday gave him two years of probation and a suspended sentence of 12 to 30 months in the other.

The rulings appear to conclude — at least for now — a saga that featured the alleged takeover of a bank-owned home, nonsensical court filings, orders from a nonexistent court, squatting accusations, a mysterious associate known as Nana I Am, and a window into the bizarre and often criminal world of sovereign citizens.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Jason Gunnell on Wednesday told Bonaventure that if it were possible, he would like to “just send (Benson) out to an island” where he could do as he pleased and wouldn’t have to follow the law.

But there are laws in Nevada, he said, and “you just can’t go around doing what you want and hiding behind some made-up belief, like the defendant did.”

‘Talking himself into prison’

Gunnell told the judge that the case before him involved filings in federal court against law enforcement, and that Benson’s codefendant was a bogus “Superior Court” judge accused of declaring a Las Vegas police detective in contempt of court.

When Gunnell said their supposed jurisdiction was the “continental United States,” there were some chuckles in the courtroom.

Benson was arrested May 9 in Cloverdale, California – 85 miles north of San Francisco – for driving on a suspended license, authorities said. He was arrested alongside his wife, Lynn Benson, who had been charged in Las Vegas Justice Court with theft and mortgage fraud and had a warrant for her arrest.

Benson told Bonaventure on Wednesday that his California case was dismissed. He said federal law defines a motor vehicle as “operating in commerce” but he was “operating privately, sir. I was not being paid to drive. I showed that to the judge, the case was dismissed.”

Gunnell said he had “no indication” the case was dismissed, and Bonaventure replied, “I know. … Let him talk. He’s talking himself more and more into prison.”

Bonaventure later told Benson that if he drove without a valid license, he would be violating his parole.

“That’s my rule,” the judge said, “not the continental USA or whatever the hell you’re talking about, all right.”

Sovereign citizen ideology

Police and prosecutors have said that Benson follows sovereign citizen ideology, a movement whose adherents are known for financial scams, nonsensical court filings and occasional violence.

Benson has said in court papers that he’s “not a person” and showed his “proof of life” with blue footprints. He also was charged twice in Clark County over fraudulent checks and was arrested last year on charges stemming from an alleged takeover of a northwest Las Vegas Valley home.

The home’s former occupants were evicted months after losing it to foreclosure. They told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that a man named Tom called to say they could come back for their stuff, but when they arrived, strangers were tossing the place. Prosecutors alleged the group included Benson.

Benson had sued for the 2-acre property and filed a lease for it the same day in 2016, records show. Nana I Am sued with him – they sought $15 million – and was named as the landlord in the lease.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, accused Benson last year of squatting in a Las Vegas condo, and he was indicted last summer in the case decided Wednesday. In his guilty plea, he admitting to offering a false instrument for filing or recording and to false representation concerning title.

The Review-Journal reported in 2016 on Benson’s history of unusual court filings, as well as some of his associates and homes linked to him. He sued the paper, this reporter and several others in 2017. A federal judge dismissed the case this year.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Facial recognition software at G2E – Todd Prince
Shing Tao, CEO of Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings, talks about his facial recognition product. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Bobby Baldwin to leave MGM
MGM Resorts International executive and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin is set to leave MGM.
Caesars has new armed emergency response teams
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has created armed emergency response teams. They are composed of former military and law enforcement officials. "These teams provide valuable additional security capabilities,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Caesars is hiring Security Saturation Team supervisors, managers and officers, according to LinkedIn. The company did not say how many people it plans to hire for the units. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas, airlines prepare for CES
CES in January is expected to attract more than 180,000 attendees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
AGS partners with Vegas Golden Knights
AGS is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Class II slot machines used primarily in tribal jurisdictions. It announced a marketing partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Crime
Family members of murder victims talk about their loss
Family members of murder victims talk about their loss. Susan Nash, 52, was killed in a shooting along with her daughter and one of her three sons on Sunday night. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Sayegh Cold Case Turns 40
Cary Sayegh was abducted from the playground of the Albert Einstein Hebrew Day School in Las Vegas in 1978. His body has never been found. (File Photo)
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vehicle of Interest in January Homicide
Las Vegas police released footage Friday of a “vehicle of interest” from a deadly shooting in January. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Hostage escapes clutches of robber before shooting
Metropolitan Police Department footage shows a man wearing a motorcycle helmet, identified by police as 27-year-old Mario B. Trejo, with one arm wrapped around a woman’s neck and held a handgun to her head.
Sunset Park Vigil
A small group of people gathered in Sunset Park to remember the three children recently killed in the area.
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye County detectives pursue suspects
A swarm of Nye County deputies, at the request of Las Vegas police, surrounded a hotel room in Pahrump last week to take two fugitives into custody. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like