Leader Of Sovereign Citizen Group Convicted Of Causing The Impersonation Of Diplomats And Producing False IDs
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – James T. McBride, 60, of Columbus, Ohio, the self-proclaimed leader of a group known as “Divine Province,” was convicted today by a federal jury of conspiracy, causing the impersonation of a diplomat and producing false identification documents.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Clark Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.
McBride was indicted on May 14, 2014, by a federal grand jury of one count of conspiracy, one count of causing the impersonation of a diplomat and four counts of producing false identification documents. According to the evidence at trial, McBride was the leader of a sovereign citizen group called “Divine Province,” whose members claimed the U.S. government was a “municipal corporation” that did not have authority over them. McBride produced and distributed false diplomatic identification cards to his group’s members, and he encouraged them to make claims of diplomatic immunity to avoid arrest, debts or taxes. None of the group’s members were in fact accredited diplomats.
McBride started selling the identification cards in September 2012 at a seminar he organized in Herndon, Virginia. Afterwards, he started selling the IDs from a website and shipping them around the country.
McBride sold the IDs in pairs, one that identified the holder as a “Universal Post Office Diplomat” and another that purported to be an “International Diplomatic Driver Permit,” for approximately $200. The defendant also encouraged his members to send copies of the IDs to governmental agencies to notify them of a member’s “status” as a diplomat. The defendant claimed that his authority to issue the IDs came from the Vatican. The defendant also gave a televised interview on ABC News prior to the filing of charges in the case, in which he reiterated such claims. During the course of the charged conduct, the defendant’s organization earned close to $500,000.
McBride faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, ten years for the count of causing the impersonation of a diplomat, and five years for each count of producing a false identification document.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, with significant assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Johnston and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kosta S. Stojilkovic are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:14-cr-175.