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‘Sovereign citizen’ gets 98 months, says court has no jurisdiction

Shawn Rice, an activist in the anti-government “sovereign citizens” movement, was sentenced Wednesday to 98 months in federal prison for his role in a $1.3 million money laundering scheme.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan also ordered Rice to forfeit $1.3 million in assets to the government, pay $95,782 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after prison.

Rice, 50, represented himself and told Mahan in a 25-minute narrative that he refused to accept the sentence.

He said the court lacked jurisdiction and his conviction was obtained by “coercion and fraud” and the result of a fraudulent grand jury proceeding.

“I have not caused an injury to another living man,” Rice told Mahan.

Rice, who is in federal custody, asked Mahan to order his release and dismiss the indictment against him.

“May I leave?” Rice asked at the end of his narrative.

“No sir, you may not,” Mahan responded.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Damm told Mahan that Rice, who lives in Arizona, had made some “very serious mistakes” and had participated in “classic money laundering.”

After a bench trial in July, Mahan found Rice guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 13 counts of money laundering. Rice also was convicted of four separate failure to appear counts stemming from 654 days Rice spent as a fugitive in the criminal case.

Rice and co-defendant Samuel Davis, 57, of Idaho were charged in March 2009 with laundering the $1.3 million for undercover FBI agents posing as shady businessmen.

Rice, a self-proclaimed rabbi and lawyer who represented himself during the trial, argued he was entrapped and had no predisposition to become involved in the conspiracy.

Mahan previously sentenced Davis, who is regarded as a national sovereign citizens leader, to 57 months in prison.

Thousands of Americans in the sovereign citizens movement have declared themselves above the government’s jurisdiction and not obligated to pay taxes. Federal authorities have alleged that group members try to disrupt or overthrow the government through “paper terrorism” tactics, intimidation, harassment and even violence.

Authorities have prosecuted several movement members and leaders in Las Vegas in the past several years. The group taught its anti-government leanings out of a local print shop.

Rice and Davis were indicted in March 2009 after a three-year undercover investigation led by the FBI into the local activities of the sovereign citizens. IRS Criminal Investigation in Las Vegas also participated in the probe.

FBI agent Mark Aysta, who infiltrated the sovereign citizens in 2006, laid out the money-laundering conspiracy for prosecutors during the 2011 trial. Aysta was assigned at the time of the investigation to the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force.

According to his testimony, Davis and Rice accepted fees to help the undercover agents launder money the agents claimed had come from the theft and forgery of bank checks. Davis received roughly $74,000 in fees and Rice $22,000.

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

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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