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Press Release

Sovereign Citizens Member Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Mailing Fictitious Financial Instrument

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today sentenced a Pinson man and member of an anti-government Sovereign Citizens group for mailing a fictitious financial instrument to pay off his home mortgage, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr.

U.S. District Judge Inge P. Johnson sentenced DONALD JOE BARBER, 64, for mailing a fictitious “bonded promissory note” to his mortgage servicing company on March 10, 2008, in a fraudulent effort to satisfy his mortgage. Barber presented the fraudulent $10 million note as if it were a valid financial instrument drawn on a secret U.S. government account. A federal jury convicted Barber on the fraud charge in April.

During today's hearing, Barber began reading a letter that his attorney had to complete for him when he was unable to continue, in which Barber told the court that he would stop promoting the beliefs of the Sovereign Citizen movement.

Judge Johnson ordered Barber to serve his two-year federal prison sentence after completing sentences he has in state court. Barber will remain on supervised release for two years following completion of his federal prison sentence.

"Members of the Sovereign Citizen movement embrace an unfounded, mythological history of the United States to claim that they live outside the authority of government and its laws," Vance said. "Standing on that twisted premise, they break the law using fraudulent financial instruments and false court claims to advance an agenda of domestic terrorism," she said.

"Mr. Barber attempted to use a redemption scheme to avoid paying just debts, and today he pays for those crimes. All citizens should be wary of individuals or groups, such as 'sovereign citizens', that claim they can inform you on secret bank accounts, and should report that activity to the FBI."

The FBI describes members of the sovereign citizen movement in the U.S. as U.S. citizens who openly reject their citizenship status and claim to exist beyond the realm of government authority. Affiliates may use their self-appointed status to justify threats, violence or crime, including theft and fraud.

The FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael W. Whisonant Sr. prosecuted.

Updated March 19, 2015