CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Defendants claim they are immune from fraud charges as sovereign citizens

Jul 27, 2022, 6:04 PM
Herriman City information sign. A herriman man was just charged in texas for fraud...
Herriman's city information sign is pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)
(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

HERRIMAN, Utah — Three defendants in a complicated fraud investigation, including a man from Herriman, claim they cannot be prosecuted because of their status as “sovereign citizens.” 

62-year-old Stephen Crabtree of Herriman faces accusations of conspiring to defraud mortgage lenders, banks, and government agencies.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston said Crabtree and two others charged in the case evaded law enforcement for several months before their arrests earlier this month. The Justice Department credited a number of local and federal agencies for assisting in Crabtree’s arrest in Utah, including Unified Police, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Marshals, and South Jordan, Riverton and Herriman police departments. 

Prosecutors allege the three sent numerous letters to federal agencies and the courts claiming to their sovereign citizenship renders them immune from prosecution. 

What are sovereign citizens?

The FBI defines sovereign citizens as anti-government extremists. They believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States.

Read more: FBI Confidential: Deadly encounters with sovereign citizens

Supervisory Special Agent Juan Garcia works with the FBI’s Salt Lake City division. He told the KSL podcast “FBI Confidential” that sovereign citizens don’t believe they have to answer to any government authority. This includes courts, taxing entities and law enforcement.

As an example, Garcia said, “They believe they have the right to travel without license plates. They believe they don’t need driver’s license[s] for example, so they create their own fake drivers license[s].”

Garcia said the FBI does work with other law enforcement to make sure sovereign citizens are not a threat.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney said Crabtree faces accusations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

He is also accused of recruiting others, including family members, to participate in a credit repair scheme that involved false reports of identity theft and obtaining credit cards and loans with false information.

Contributing: Mark Jackson and Becky Bruce

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Defendants claim they are immune from fraud charges as sovereign citizens