Colorado 'sovereign citizen' sentenced for bank fraud, false financial claims

DENVER – A Grand Junction man who is a self-proclaimed “sovereign citizen” has been sentenced to 70 months in federal prison after being convicted of bank fraud and making false financial claims to the U.S. government.

Rocky Hutson, 59, will have to serve 70 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, after he was sentenced following his January conviction on 14 counts.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Colorado, Hutson and a group of “sovereign citizens,” who claim not to recognize federal or state authority, would make fake financial documents to give to others for use in repaying debts. Hutson and three others were indicted in June 2016.

When banks would notice the documents were frauds, Hutson and others would pressure the banks or their lawyers into convincing them the documents were real, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He also sent fake financial claims to the Department of Agriculture to try and pay off debts and make new purchases, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says included 17 Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a multi-million dollar shopping center.

In total, according to prosecutors, Hutson played a part in submitting nearly $15 million in false claims to the Department of Agriculture and $6.3 million in false financial instruments to financial institutions.

His attorneys claimed that he held a sincerely held religious belief as a sovereign citizen under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but a jury and prosecutors disagreed.

The federal jury convicted Hutson on five counts of filing false claims, six counts of creating fictitious financial instruments and three counts of bank fraud on Jan. 11.

“Americans have every right to believe whatever ideology they want,” U.S. Attorney for Colorado Bob Troyer said in a statement. “But they don’t have a right to hide behind any ideology to manipulate others in violation of the law and for their own personal gain. That’s what the defendant did, and he’ll be punished for it. Our prosecutors and the FBI made sure of that.”

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