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Monday, August 31, 2009

3 guilty of selling fake "ambassador" credentials

According to the U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri, the defendants -- one from Kingsville, one from Lawrence, one from Nevada -- have ties to the sovereign citizen movement. They allegedly sold the credentials by telling customers that owning one would prevent the police from arresting or stopping them. Also, they wouldn't have to pay taxes. (Doesn't say anything about granting the bearer to turn invisible or fly.) More after the jump!

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that three men with connections to the sovereign citizen movement were convicted by a federal jury today of participating in a co! nspiracy to use fraudulent diplomatic credentials.

David L. Robinson, 66, of Lawrence, Kan., Daniel W. Denham, 50, of Kingsville, Mo., Larry P. Goodyke, 52, of Henderson, Nev., were found guilty of all charges contained in an Aug. 6, 2008,! federal indictment.

The co-defendants are involved in various sovereign citizen groups that reject governmental authority and claim that most branches of the federal government are illegitimate entities.

Evidence presented during the trial indicated that Robinson, Denham and Goodyke participated in a conspiracy to use, as well as to buy and sell, fraudulent diplomatic identification cards beginning sometime prior to July 11, 2006, until Oct. 18, 2007. The three-by-four-inch laminated cards, which identified the bearer as an “Ambassador,” contained a photogr! aph of the bearer of the card, the seal of the U.S. Department of State and the words “Diplomatic Identification.” Goodyke also created license plates for those with diplomatic credentials; the license plates bore the seal of the Department of State.

Customers paid from $450 to $2,000 to receive a diplomatic identification card after the defendants told their customers that the cards would grant them sovereign status. As sovereign citizens, the defendants claimed, their customers would enjoy diplomatic immunity and would no longer have to pay taxes or be subject to being stopped, detained, or arrested by law enforcement personnel.

Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City deliberated about four hours before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple, ending a trial that began Monday, Aug. 24, 2009.

Robinson and Denham were the original leaders of the group. Robinson’s role in the conspiracy primarily consisted of explaining the process to individuals who were interested in obtaining a fraudulent diplomatic identification card, then obtaining for the individual an apostille. An apostille is a document, issued by a state government, certifying that an underlying document has ! been signed by a notary public. The apostille was needed for the individual’s Act of State – a one-page, single-spaced document through which the defendants and their customers purported to renounce their citizenship of the United States.

The defendants claimed that an Act of State was required before the individual could receive an identification card. The defendants falsely told their customers that the return of an apostille on a notarized document made it legally binding, and provided proof that the state reviewed and found legitimate the individual’s claim of status as a sovereign citizen, thus providing him with diplomatic immunity. In reality, an apostille in no way legitimizes, or legalizes, the contents of a document, but simply certifies the legitimacy of a notary stamp on a document. By issuing an apostille, the state is certifying that the submitted document (the Act of State) was notarized and stamped by a licensed notary. The apostille number was then used on the fraudulent identification cards.

Denham referred customers to Robinson in order to acquire an apostille, then Robinson referred customers to Denham to order their identification cards.

Goodyke and co-defendant Blake W. Bestol, 48, of Cheyenne, Wyo., were customers of Robinson and Denham who ordered fraudulent identification cards from them. Bestol pleaded guilty on July 28, 2009, to buying fraudulent diplomatic credentials.

Goodyke and Bestol became involved in the conspiracy by modifying, improving, and revising the cards. Goodyke also sold and transferred numerous cards to others. Bestol developed modifications to the identification cards to inc! rease their effectiveness. Bestol forwarded these modifications to Goodyke and Denham, who incorporated them into future versions of the diplomatic identification cards, according to the indictment.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Robinson, Denham and Goodyke were found guilty of multiple counts of illegally using fraudulent diplomatic credentials bearing the seal of the U.S. Department of State. Robinson was also found guilty of wrongfully using a government seal or instrument for displaying one of the fraudulent diplomatic identification cards to a Kansas City, Mo., police officer when he was stopped on Sept. 20, 2007.

Under federal statutes, Robinson is subject to a sentence of up to 65 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $3,250,000. Denham is subject to a sentence of up to 40 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $2 million. Goodyke is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1.5 million. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Alexander Menzel, Jr., and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel J. Stewart and Brian Casey. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Services and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.


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