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March 21, 2016 4

Winston Shrout: The Rise and Fall of a Sovereign Citizen Guru

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Port­land, Ore­gon, obtained a 19-count grand jury indict­ment in mid-March against Win­ston Shrout, a Hills­boro, Ore­gon, res­i­dent and one of the most promi­nent sov­er­eign cit­i­zen gurus in the United States, a man whose videos and sem­i­nars have attracted thou­sands of peo­ple to the anti-government extrem­ist movement.

Winston Shrout

Win­ston Shrout

Shrout was charged with 13 counts of using fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments in con­nec­tion with an alleged debt elim­i­na­tion scheme. Fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments are bogus checks, money orders, or sim­i­lar doc­u­ments that pur­port to be pay­ments of money but are not in fact gen­uine. Since the early 1980s, sov­er­eign cit­i­zens have been fas­ci­nated with fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments, using them for every­thing from escap­ing their own debts to per­pe­trat­ing major frauds and scams, espe­cially against indebted prop­erty own­ers. Pass­ing them became a fed­eral crime thanks to a law passed after the 1996 Mon­tana Freemen stand­off; the Freemen hav­ing been ener­getic pro­mot­ers of such bogus instruments.

Debt elim­i­na­tion schemes are also extremely com­mon within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment; sov­er­eigns use their pseudo-legal lan­guage and con­cepts to con­vince vic­tims that, for a fee, their mort­gages or other debts can sim­ply be made to van­ish. Often, fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments and debt elim­i­na­tion schemes go hand in hand.

The fed­eral indict­ment accuses Shrout of cre­at­ing and spread­ing more than 300 bogus “Inter­na­tional Bills of Exchange” and “Non-Negotiable Bills of Exchange,” instru­ments with a com­bined face value of over $100 tril­lion (but worth­less in fact). The indict­ment claims that Shrout used such instru­ments him­self and also mar­keted them as a way for oth­ers to pay off their debts. Shrout is also charged with 6 counts of will­ful fail­ure to file income tax returns.

The indict­ment is a super­sed­ing indict­ment, adding the fic­ti­tious instru­ment charges to the tax charges, which were orig­i­nally filed against Shrout in Decem­ber 2015. Since that orig­i­nal indict­ment, Shrout has declined to use an attorney—a com­mon tac­tic for sovereigns—and has defended him­self using sov­er­eign cit­i­zen fil­ings that, among other things, declare his refusal to con­sent to the juris­dic­tion of the fed­eral court or to be taxed by the IRS.

Shrout, 67, has been one of the most influ­en­tial lead­ers of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment in the 21st cen­tury. Sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that, long ago, an evil con­spir­acy infil­trated and replaced the orig­i­nal “de jure” gov­ern­ment with an ille­git­i­mate, tyran­ni­cal “de facto” gov­ern­ment. They claim that the “de facto” gov­ern­ment has no author­ity or juris­dic­tion over them, which allows them to ratio­nal­ize ignor­ing or break­ing vir­tu­ally any tax, law, reg­u­la­tion, or court order. The move­ment is dom­i­nated by a coterie of gurus, the peo­ple who come up with the movement’s pseudo-legal theories—as well as its often-illegal tactics—and teach them to their followers.

Shrout grew up in Ken­tucky but resided in Utah for much of his life before finally mov­ing to Ore­gon. Shrout has said he is a col­lege grad­u­ate but worked var­i­ous blue-collar jobs such as car­pen­ter, welder, and con­struc­tion worker until 1998, when, as he put it, “as luck would have it I was able to retire.”

Fol­low­ing this early “retire­ment,” Shrout encoun­tered the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment at a time when it was enjoy­ing a burst of pop­u­lar­ity. This was due to a new com­pi­la­tion of sov­er­eign cit­i­zen the­o­ries and tac­tics, often referred to as “redemp­tion” or “straw man the­ory,” which swept through the move­ment in 1999 like a wild­fire and still remain quite pop­u­lar to this day. Long­time sov­er­eign cit­i­zen guru Roger Elvick came up with redemp­tion theory—acting on it would even­tu­ally land him in prison—and shared it with a group of dis­ci­ples who became gurus trav­el­ling the coun­try, hold­ing sem­i­nars and sell­ing man­u­als and videos explain­ing redemp­tion the­ory and its var­i­ous asso­ci­ated tac­tics. Many of those dis­ci­ples are now them­selves in fed­eral or state prison.

Shrout has at times seemed to imply that he learned redemp­tion the­ory from Roger Elvick, but Shrout’s ear­li­est sov­er­eign cit­i­zen fil­ings appear to date from 2000, by which time redemp­tion the­ory was already quite pop­u­lar in the move­ment. In August 2000, he filed a nota­rized doc­u­ment explaining—in sov­er­eign cit­i­zen pseudo-legalese—how he had refused to sign or accept a traf­fic cita­tion from a Wash­ing­ton County, Utah, sheriff’s deputy.

Two months later, Shrout filed his first bogus lien—a com­mon harass­ing tac­tic that sov­er­eigns use against per­ceived oppo­nents or ene­mies. Shrout filed a $1,340,000 lien dubbed an “Affi­davit of Oblig­a­tion” against Uni­fied Indus­tries, Inc., which is a cor­po­ra­tion that holds resources and busi­ness enter­prises asso­ci­ated with the Apos­tolic United Brethren (AUB), one of the major fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mon polyg­a­mist sects in Utah. The lien stemmed from some sort of dis­pute Shrout had with El Ran­cho Moto­qua, a sub­sidiary com­pany of Uni­fied Indus­tries estab­lished to cre­ate a polyg­a­mist com­mu­nity in south­ern Utah. In such com­mu­ni­ties, prop­er­ties are often not owned by indi­vid­ual busi­ness own­ers or res­i­dents but rather by a hold­ing com­pany or trust run by the sect. Shrout seems to have been per­mit­ted a res­i­dence in Moto­qua and came into con­flict with the polyg­a­mists run­ning the com­mu­nity. In the bogus lien, Shrout com­plained that he had been threat­ened with “removal” from his house and that he was “excluded from par­tic­i­pa­tion in the reli­gious cer­e­monies and usages” held inside a com­mu­nity building.

Was Shrout him­self an adher­ent of the polyg­a­mist AUB? It is not entirely clear from the lien doc­u­ment, though at one point Shrout refers to him­self “and sev­eral thou­sand other fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mons.” How­ever, non-adherents have some­times resided in AUB com­mu­ni­ties. Some adher­ents of polyg­a­mists sects have got­ten involved with the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Shrout’s step­daugh­ter, April Ramp­ton, was a res­i­dent of Moto­qua as late as 2012, before she her­self was con­victed in fed­eral court on nine counts of fil­ing false tax claims while engaged in a com­mon sov­er­eign cit­i­zen and tax protest scheme.

Before the end of 2000, Shrout filed a series of redemption-related doc­u­ments and he soon became a redemp­tion guru, teach­ing the the­ory to sov­er­eign audi­ences. In 2004, Shrout and Patri­cia Bekken formed an entity called Solu­tions in Com­merce to mar­ket sov­er­eign sem­i­nars and work­shops. Shrout proved to be a pop­u­lar speaker, with a folksy demeanor that he delib­er­ately played up, refer­ring to it once as “hill­billy shtick.” The debt elim­i­na­tion schemes that Shrout pro­moted were also pop­u­lar; one admir­ing extrem­ist in 2004 referred to Shrout as a “top dawg” among such promoters.

Shrout’s rep­u­ta­tion within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment grew in the mid-2000s, but it was the social media rev­o­lu­tion that really helped pro­pel him to the top ranks of sov­er­eign gurus, as YouTube videos of some of his appear­ances and sem­i­nars began to cir­cu­late widely by 2008–2009, bring­ing him far greater atten­tion and pop­u­lar­ity. This same time period cor­re­sponded with the begin­nings of the great reces­sion and the mort­gage cri­sis, events that helped spawn a major resur­gence of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment by cre­at­ing a large pool of angry and des­per­ate peo­ple who were poten­tial recruits.

Shrout held sem­i­nars across the coun­try but hardly lim­ited his activ­i­ties to the United States. In the 1990s, the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment had taken root in Canada, so Shrout spoke to atten­tive audi­ences in that nation—until Cana­dian author­i­ties finally pro­hib­ited him from enter­ing the coun­try. But Shrout found other inter­na­tional audi­ences, hold­ing sem­i­nars in Aus­tralia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, help­ing to bring the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment to all of those countries—to the dis­may of authorities.

More recently, Shrout expanded beyond strictly sov­er­eign notions to express him­self on UFOs and other “New Age” issues, claim­ing that in the early 2000s he and friends of his have been vis­ited by alien “Pleia­di­ans.” He’s made ref­er­ences to every­thing from incar­nated fairies to “Hol­low Earth” the­ory. Sev­eral years ago, Shrout set up a new web­site, dubbed Exo-Commerce, to pro­vide “insight from a uni­ver­sal per­spec­tive,” which appears to be an attempt to blend sov­er­eign cit­i­zen the­o­ries and tac­tics with “New Age” beliefs. It is dif­fi­cult to deter­mine whether these are sin­cerely held beliefs or merely a cyn­i­cal attempt on the part of Shrout to expand to another gullible audience.

The new fed­eral charges against Shrout could put an end to such oppor­tunism, cyn­i­cal or sin­cere. If con­victed on all charges, Shrout may face what could be an effec­tive life sentence.

 

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August 31, 2015 2

Virginia Shootings Spur White Supremacist Vitriol

Within hours of the deadly August 26 on-air shoot­ing of tele­vi­sion reporter Ali­son Parker and cam­era­man Adam Ward in Roanoke, Vir­ginia, the on-line white suprema­cist world erupted in hate­ful rhetoric and dis­cus­sions of violence.vamurderscomment

The shooter, Vester Flana­gan (also known as Bryce Williams), was some­one whom white suprema­cists could eas­ily exploit to gen­er­ate anger. His vic­tims were white; Flana­gan was a black, gay man with a his­tory of fil­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaints against for­mer employ­ers, includ­ing the tele­vi­sion sta­tion where the slain jour­nal­ists worked.

Flana­gan killed him­self as police caught up to him, but not before he faxed to ABC News a lengthy sui­cide note/manifesto, detail­ing a litany of griev­ances and per­ceived mis­treat­ment because of his race and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. More­over, in his note he directly ref­er­enced the June 2015 Charleston shoot­ings, in which white suprema­cist Dylann Storm Roof killed nine African-American church­go­ers. Flana­gan tried to explain his murders—seemingly com­mit­ted for per­sonal reasons—as a retal­i­a­tion for Roof’s own killings. Refer­ring to Roof’s hope that a race war would result from his shoot­ings, Flana­gan wrote “You want a race war…THEN BRING IT.”

Reac­tions from the racist right were swift and involved well-worn anti-black and anti-Semitic tropes. Among them: that black peo­ple shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, because they have “no impulse con­trol,” and that the vic­tims, as mem­bers of the “Jew­ish media,” deserved to die. And above all, an echo of Roof’s call for race war: The hope that the shoot­ings would spark a “rev­o­lu­tion” of whites ris­ing up against their osten­si­ble oppres­sors (blacks and Jews) and strik­ing back.

The New Order, a small Wisconsin-based neo-Nazi group, pre­sented a typ­i­cal anti-black response, issu­ing a state­ment head­lined “White Lives Mat­ter” that described the shoot­ings as a crime com­mit­ted by “a deranged anti-White Negro” and claimed that “The mur­der, rape and assault of White peo­ple by racist Black crim­i­nals is a daily event in the United States.”

Anti-Semitism shaped the responses of many white suprema­cists. On Storm­front, the large white suprema­cist dis­cus­sion forum, poster Red­Baron claimed that reporter Parker “was part of the Jew con­trolled media. The pro­pa­ganda she helped to put on the air came back to haunt her (to death).” The “Jew­ish plot” trope was repeated by another Storm­fron­ter: “I don’t think the Jew power struc­ture wants a fully awake white pub­lic right now. They’ve been doing every­thing to drug us into a stu­por as they incite blacks to mur­der us.”

At the neo-Nazi web­site Daily Stormer, poster GuiMas­ter also had lit­tle sym­pa­thy for Parker: “But how do we know that this woman was ‘noble?’ She was work­ing for the anti-White media. How aware was she that her job involves spread­ing com­mu­nist anti-White hate pro­pa­ganda?” On Face­book, another white suprema­cist labeled Parker’s father, who had appeared on Fox News to plead for more gun con­trol mea­sures, a “Zio-Marxist” push­ing a “Jew­ish” agenda.

For many white suprema­cists, though, it was Flanagan’s ref­er­ence to “race war” that most exer­cised them. For them, the sole bright spot in the killings was that they might speed the start of an antic­i­pated racial con­flict. At the Daily Stormer, for exam­ple, one com­menter wrote: “When the ‘race war’ comes, it’s gonna be us killing them in short order.”

On Storm­front, long­time Arkansas white suprema­cist Billy Roper hoped the killings would “awaken more of our peo­ple to see it as the reprisal act it was in a war which is just begin­ning, in fits and starts, as they so often do.” Mean­while, on the Face­book page of “Amer­i­can White His­tory Month,” Jon Winslow wrote: “White peo­ple! Start riot­ing now!”

Oth­ers seemed inter­ested in actions more seri­ous that riot­ing. Storm­front poster 14words_of_truth wrote: “Peo­ple keep ask­ing me ‘when is the race war going to start?’ It started a long time ago; it is not going to start, it is going to change. The change will be that the White Man will start fight­ing back.”

To which Storm­front edi­tor Jack­Boot replied, “Well said. So far we can’t esca­late from the war of words on our side, and that esca­la­tion is long past due. They’ve been spilling our blood for years, and I’m not talk­ing only about the Jews’ prox­ies. We got a lotta catch-up to play.”

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August 26, 2015 1

Judge Thwarts Anti-Semitic Killer’s Attempt At Show Trial

As open­ing state­ments and tes­ti­mony began this week in Olathe, Kansas, in the mur­der trial of white suprema­cist Fra­zier Glenn Miller (also known as Fra­zier Glenn Cross), the defense strat­egy of the for­mer Klansman—who is rep­re­sent­ing himself—became clear.

Frazier Glenn Miller mugshot

Fra­zier Glenn Miller mugshot

Miller, who has admit­ted com­mit­ting a shoot­ing spree at two Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Over­land Park, Kansas, in April 2014 that killed three peo­ple, includ­ing one child, indi­cated his inten­tions with his open­ing state­ments on August 24. Miller asserted to the jury that the mur­ders were jus­ti­fied, describ­ing his actions that day as “well-intentioned” and claim­ing that he had “good, moral rea­sons” for the slayings.

These state­ments echoed ear­lier remarks by Miller before the trial that he would attempt a “neces­sity” defense, claim­ing that the shoot­ings were needed to halt the “Jew­ish geno­cide of the white race.” Though Miller had admit­ted that his inten­tions were to shoot Jews, none of the vic­tims he killed at the Jew­ish insti­tu­tions turned out to be Jewish.

Miller told the jury that white peo­ple “have a right to sur­vive” and the right to pre­serve our heritage…and a safe future for white chil­dren.” This was a ref­er­ence to the “14 Words,” a pop­u­lar white suprema­cist slo­gan: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren.” It refers to the wide­spread white suprema­cist belief that the white race is threat­ened with extinc­tion because of a ris­ing tide of non-white peo­ples who are con­trolled and manip­u­lated by Jews.

How­ever, Miller did not get far in his effort at an anti-Semitic show trial before Judge Kelly Ryan stopped him. Judge Ryan had ear­lier ruled that Miller could not intro­duce his anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries into the guilt phase of the trial, which was to deter­mine whether a crime had been com­mit­ted, not why. The judge said that Miller could make such argu­ments dur­ing the penalty phase of the trial, if he were convicted.

As wit­nesses began to tes­tify, Miller found other ways to intro­duce his anti-Semitic views, such as bring­ing cer­tain books to court with him. At one point he had a copy of his own, self-printed auto­bi­og­ra­phy, A White Man Speaks Out, dis­played on the defense table. Another time dur­ing the trial he held up a book for peo­ple to see: They Dare to Speak Out: Peo­ple and Insti­tu­tions Con­front Israel’s Lobby, an anti-Israel book writ­ten by Paul Find­ley, a long-time anti-Israel activist, in 1985.

Miller was a promi­nent white suprema­cist in the 1970s and 1980s, at one point head­ing a large Ku Klux Klan group, but the white suprema­cist move­ment ostra­cized him for pro­vid­ing tes­ti­mony in a crim­i­nal case against other white suprema­cists. Miller has spent most of the past 15 years try­ing to get back in the graces of the move­ment, with lit­tle suc­cess. His shoot­ing spree was appar­ently a final attempt.

Miller’s Over­land Park attack was only one of a num­ber of deadly shoot­ing sprees by white suprema­cists in recent years. These and other mur­ders have made white suprema­cists the most deadly extrem­ist move­ment in the coun­try, as detailed in ADL’s recent report, With Hate in their Hearts: The State of White Supremacy in the United States.

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