'Sovereign Citizens' Claim Immunity From Ind., Federal Law

State Sees Uptick In People Claiming To Be Diplomats Living In Embassies

Fed up and fired up, an increasing number of Indiana residents who have lost confidence in the government are going to extreme measures to claim they are "sovereign citizens."

By doing so, residents contend that they no longer have to pay taxes, claiming their homes as embassies and using identification cards that show them as diplomats, 6News' Rafael Sanchez reported.

Indiana authorities call such proclamations both illegitimate and illegal. About 10 people every month ask the state to put a seal on a document so that they can claim freedom from taxes.

There are plenty of American flags draped on homes along U.S. 36, a road that leads to the home of Donald Moore, who claims to be a diplomatic agent and ambassador -- a mark of a so-called sovereign citizen.

Moore, a father of seven, and his wife invited 6News to their home, but decided not to appear on camera.

Moore is equipped with an official looking identification card and a badge, which he said means United States law doesn't apply to him.

"It gives me diplomatic immunity," Moore said, referring to the ID card. "The way I understand it, the federal government is incorporated, and all the states are incorporated. This takes me out of the corporation."

Moore and others said they draw their beliefs from the Bible and U.S. Constitution. Moore said all that has to be done to be exempt from U.S. laws is to file documents available online with the Secretary of State.

Many claim that the statements within the papers they provide are enforceable because of a state seal placed on the material, but in reality, that seal is placed on any number of documents and doesn't make what's on the documents true.

Secretary of State Todd Rokita said he's troubled that people use self-made ID cards that show his name and the state emblem in an attempt to open bank accounts, buy items tax free and board airplanes.

"Just because you allege something or concoct yourself a document doesn't mean you're getting off the hook," Rokita said. "You're going to get in worse trouble."

Jonathan Dilley is serving a nearly four-year sentence in federal prison for using his sovereign citizen paperwork.

Last year, Dilley was convicted after making and presenting his own promissory notes to pay off more than $800,000 of debt.

Another so-called sovereign citizen, Brad Henry, said he loves America, but is fed up with government in general.

"I don't have any rights you don't. You just don't have the guts to stand up for yours," Henry said, when questioned about the authenticity of documents.

Henry said he doesn't mind paying sales taxes, but won't pay property taxes. He asked Delaware County officials to exempt him from annual bills because he considers his house to be an embassy. The county denied the request.

Embassies are where officials from other countries work. They must be recognized by the U.S. Department of State to be legitimate.

In all of Indiana, only three people, all workers at the Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis, have real diplomatic plates and the privileges that accompany them, officials said.

Some so-called sovereign citizens refuse to use state-issued licenses or plates. When they're pulled over, police said they often show an ID that says no one can delay, detain or arrest them without facing damages of $2 million, Sanchez reported.

"We are people who love our organic United States of America, the way it was found and meant to be, and are trying to preserve that," Henry said.

Indiana is not the only state seeing an uptick in sovereign citizens. In February, four men were convicted in Missouri for buying and selling fraudulent credentials related to the movement.

In March 2009, federal authorities arrested four men in Las Vegas in a similar operation.

Some people are paying between $900 and $2,100 to become members of a sovereign citizens group.

State and federal revenue departments said they couldn't reveal any information about whether they are investigating anyone claiming to be a sovereign citizen and refusing to pay taxes in Indiana.

The U.S. Department of State said that only people on its list are considered diplomats. Moore and Henry are not on that list.

Indiana State Police said vehicles without legal plates will be towed and that owners will be ticketed for any offense.

More Information:

  • What Is A Sovereign Citizen?
  • More Information From Southern Poverty Law Center