10th Circuit Panel Rules Against ‘Sovereign Citizen’ in False Claims Case

DENVER (CN) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will not pay off your car loan and it’s illegal to ask, a 10th Circuit panel ruled Tuesday in upholding five charges of false claims against a Colorado man who did just that.

In May 2016, Gunther Glaub was found guilty of making false claims after he submitted $1.7 million in debts to the USDA, including $73,000 for a Corvette, $65,000 for a Camaro bill, and a student loan owed to the U.S. Department of Education.

Glaub included a note saying “thank you for paying this debt.”

While he faced a hefty prison sentence, Glaub was eventually fined $500, given five years’ probation and ordered to do 100 hours of community service.

The FBI reportedly believed that Glaub was a “sovereign citizen” – a broad term for individuals who deny the legitimacy of the U.S. government and acknowledge only common law.

At oral argument in Denver last March, the panel of judges chided the federal government for even prosecuting the case, but in the 23-page opinion, Senior Circuit Judge Michael Murphy earnestly considered the case.

“The conduct of an individual who submits an unaltered personal bill to the government knowingly seeking a payment the government has no obligation to make is no different than the conduct of an individual who alters the amount on a bill otherwise legitimately payable by the government,” Murphy wrote. “In both situations, the individual is knowingly seeking to obtain monies from the government to which he is not entitled.”

What the government prosecuted as a submission of false claims, Glaub described as a petition to the government, protected by the Constitution.

In his appeal, Glaub claimed this First Amendment right to petition the government was being violated, but Murphy disagreed.

“Although Glaub’s appellate arguments focus primarily on First Amendment legal principles, the First Amendment issues arising in this False Claims act criminal prosecution hinge on the factual question of intent,” Murphy wrote. “Because that question was properly submitted to the jury, Glaub is not entitled to reversal of his convictions.”

On its website, the FBI lists “sovereign citizens” as a domestic terrorist movement that causes “all kinds of problems – and crimes. For example, many sovereign citizens don’t pay their taxes. They hold illegal courts that issue warrants for judges and police officers. They clog up the court system with frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials to harass them.”

The FBI labels such acts as “paper terrorism.”

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