A couple from Jackson County, Ala., has been arrested on extortion charges alleging they filed false liens against area businesses, according to Capt. L.G. Owens, investigation division commander for the Oxford, Ala., Police Department.
A lien is a form of security interest that can secure a payment of debt or other obligation of a property. Owens said the alleged fraud was carried out in Calhoun County, Ala., where Oxford is located.
Miriam Claire Shultz, 67, of Rainsville, turned herself in Sept. 2 after her common-law husband, Everett Leon Stout, 72, of Scottsboro, was arrested Aug. 29. Both are charged with 14 counts of second-degree extortion. Owens said Shultz also is charged with attempted first-degree theft of properties.
He said both claim they are "sovereign citizens," meaning that they do not acknowledge or abide by state or federal law, although the term has no legal standing. Sovereign citizens are known for rejecting most forms of taxation and promoting financial schemes. Some sovereign citizens are classified as domestic terrorists.
The investigation began after a local resident called in a tip saying that a so-called sovereign citizen was filing made-up liens. Owens said an undercover officer was sent in to learn what the couple was doing.
Owens said the Oxford police have dealt with Stout before in similar incidents.
"He is known to this agency from past dealings," Owens said. "He's not unfamiliar to us."
Stout's bail was set at $210,000, and Shultz's bail was set at $240,000. Both have court dates scheduled for Oct. 9.
Owens said the investigation is still open and ongoing. The couple has been transferred to the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office.
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