Tax evaders fall into trap

Marshals posing as backers arrest two

October 06, 2007|By Erika Hayasaki | Erika Hayasaki,Los Angeles Times

Federal marshals posing as supporters peacefully arrested a couple convicted of tax evasion who had been holed up in their New Hampshire mountaintop home for months, vowing to die fighting rather than surrender.

Ed and Elaine Brown let the marshals into their secluded Plainfield compound about 7:45 p.m. Thursday, U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said yesterday.

The Browns were arrested before they realized they had been deceived, Monier said at a news conference. The turreted house had become a commune for anti-government activists and militiamen who traveled from around the country to visit the couple, bringing them food and ammunition.

"Ultimately, this open-door policy that they seemed to have - which allowed the Browns to have some supporters bring them supplies, welcome followers and even host a picnic - this proved to be their undoing," Monier said. "They invited us in. We escorted them out."

Monier said no one else was in the Browns' home when the undercover agents entered. "This ended exactly the way we wanted it to end," he said, "without a shot being fired and with no one getting hurt."

Authorities discovered a large number of weapons, explosives and ammunition on the property, Monier said, and booby traps had been set up along the perimeter of the house.

The couple were turned over to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Monier said. Each is expected to serve a 63-month sentence.

The Browns stopped paying income taxes in 1996, claiming that the Constitution and Supreme Court decisions supported their claims that ordinary labor cannot be taxed. Ed Brown, a former exterminator, repeatedly had demanded, "Show me the law!"

But in January a judge convicted them of conspiring to evade paying taxes on $1.9 million in income from Elaine Brown's dentistry practice. Ed Brown, 65, immediately went into hiding. Elaine Brown, 67, later joined him after both failed to show up for their sentencing in April.

Government and law enforcement officials cut off power, Internet, telephone, cell phone, television and mail service to the couple's 110-acre compound. But the Browns had equipped it with solar panels, a watchtower, a satellite dish and a stockpile of food.

The couple had attracted national attention from Web sites and radio shows devoted to discussing their cause. Supporters held fundraiser concerts on the Browns' property and set up a blog and MySpace page for them. Last month, authorities arrested four men accused of assisting the Browns.

Thomas Aveno of the Police Policy Studies Council said the peaceful end to the standoff could signal a shift away from the tactics used in the fatal 1992 shootout at an Idaho property called Ruby Ridge and the deadly government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, the next year.

Erika Hayasaki writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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