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Michael Hilton

Hilton Admits: I’m Broke And Had No Corporate Backing for Jail Bid

TPMMuckraker– Zachary Roth | November 2, 2009, 9:57AM

“I’m out of the game. I’m done,” Michael Hilton has told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The California grifter had just testified in court that he’s broke, is struggling to pay rent on his apartment, and recently borrowed money from his girlfriend. And he appeared to come close, perhaps for the first time, to admitting that he had deceived local officials in Montana about his effort to take control of an empty jail.

Hilton was in court for a hearing in a 2000 civil judgment against him which is now estimated at $700,000.

Hiss recent bid to take control of an empty jail in Hardin, Montana ran aground after news surfaced of his history of criminal fraud, and several of the public claims about his security contracting company, American Private Police Force, were called into question.

But this seems to be the first time that Hilton himself has edged up to acknowledging that he misled Hardin officials from the start. In court, he admitted that the substantial corporate backing he had claimed for his jail bid in fact never existed. Instead, he said he had four investors, one of whom was his girlfriend.

And according to a lawyer for the building contractor in the 2000 case, as reported by the Billings Gazette, Hilton also testified that he had no experience, training or licensing for police or prison work, and that APPF had no parent company and no other staff. Hilton had previously represented to Hardin that his company was an established security contractor active in all 50 states and working with the U.S. government.

Hilton also said that back in July, he told Greg Smith, then the head of Hardin’s economic development arm, about his criminal past, and was told it wouldn’t be a problem. Smith, who led the effort to work with Hilton, was put on administrative leave in September, for reasons that have not been made public.

 

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APPF SUVs with Hardin Police Dept. decal, 9/30/09

APPF SUVs with 'Hardin Police Dept.' decal, 9/30/09

Early Agreement Said APPF Would Provide Hardin With Police Force For $250K

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 9, 2009, 10:04AM

Here’s a nice get by the Billings Gazette, which went to court to pry another document from the hands of Hardin, MT, officials on the town’s deal with the shadowy American Private Police Force.

The August 18 agreement, signed by APPF’s Michael Hilton and Hardin economic development chief Greg Smith, who resigned this week, makes clear that Smith wanted APPF to provide a police force for the town, which doesn’t have its own department. Read the whole thing here.

TPMmuckraker previously reported that the September contract signed by APPF and the Two Rivers Authority — but never OKed by the trustee on the bonds used to build the Hardin jail — gave APPF the option of providing law enforcement services for the town.

The earlier agreement that emerged today says that Two Rivers would submit a proposal for APPF “to provide a police force” and the ‘City of Hardin will pay the sum of $250,000 to American for the police force.” It’s not clear if that was the annual rate, and it’s even less clear whether Two Rivers, an economic development agency, had the authority to make promises on behalf of the city of Hardin.

Company Mercedes SUVs rolled into town a few weeks ago with “City of Hardin Police Department” decals, causing worry among residents and drawing national attention. They were removed within the day.

Smith, the Two Rivers official who signed the agreement, was put on leave after the September 4 contract was signed. He resigned this week, and town officials have been mum as to why he left. But the August agreement may go a long way to explaining what happened.

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Anonymous APPF ‘Investor’ Comes Forward, Claims Jail Project Still Alive

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 8, 2009, 11:36AM

Just when we thought the American Private Police Force saga might be over, a putative APPF “investor” has come forward — anonymously.

KULR in Montana reports on a “California man” who claims, under condition that his name not be used, that he is one of several private individuals who gave APPF money for the Hardin jail project.

There’s no mention by the investor of that “major security firm” parent company APPF long claimed to have.

Apparently operating under the assumption that APPF is made up of more than just ‘Captain’ Michael Hilton, the man told KULR that several private individuals (yes, that’s plural) who gave APPF money are now looking into opening the Hardin jail without Hilton.

And they are trying to verify “the source of prisoners Hilton claims to have.” Which also strikes us as an odd claim, given that Hilton himself claimed last month — to KULR, no less — that the deal was primarily about a security training center: “We don’t really want to get into the prison business.”

Meanwhile, APPF is spreading a little oppo research on the man Hilton falsely claimed would be the director of operations at the Hardin jail. Michael Cohen, of Ohio-based International Security Associates, served over a year in prison after a 2004 felony conviction for stealing from his then-employer, the Secret Service, the AP reports.

Which raises the question: if you’re going to all the trouble of fabricating a director of operations and sending his resume to town leaders, why pick the guy who just got out of prison for theft?

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American Police Force logo

Hardin To Create Own Police Force — But Pledges Not To Hire APPF

TPM MUCKRAKER- Zachary Roth | October 7, 2009, 10:02AM

We told you this week the contract between Hardin, Montana and American Private Police Force gave the shady security contractor the chance to take over the town’s policing needs, in addition to running Hardin’s prison. It appears to have been this potential law enforcement responsibility that led APPF to roll into town late last month in three Mercedes SUVs bearing the words “City of Hardin Police Department,” setting off a panic that soon spread far beyond Hardin.

Now that the APPF deal seems to have been on hold, you’d think local officials might now be wary of doing anything that might re-open the police force issue. But yesterday, Big Horn County commissioners nonetheless went ahead and voted to allow the city to create its own police department – though only after making assurances that APPF won’t get the job.

Hardin has been trying to create its own force for several years, which would allow it to no longer rely on the county sheriff’s office for law enforcement. Indeed, the flirtation with APPF as a potential law enforcement provider appears to have been connected to this long-standing deconsolidation effort.

For a while, that seemed likely to derail the entire project. As Becky Convery, the Hardin former attorney, who is still working with the city on the police force issue, put it to commissioners yesterday: “Somehow we went down this other path that sort of sidetracked everything.”

Now deconsolidation is back on. But as the Billings Gazette puts it:

It’s not clear where the city will get the estimated $1 million a year it will cost to run a department with a police chief and seven officers.

Hmmm…we hear there’s a California-based private contractor with a long record of criminal fraud and a history of alcoholism who’ll do it on the cheap.

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APPF’s Dubious Story Gets Even More Dubious

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 5, 2009, 6:46PM

We’ve known since last week that the story surrounding a deal that handed an empty jail in Hardin, MT, to shadowy private security company American Private Police Force just wasn’t adding up. Today, it became still more clear that APPF has a lot of explaining to do.

Let’s review the developments:

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Hardin Official: Unnamed But ‘Highly Qualified’ APPF Director Of Ops In Afghanistan Right Now

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 5, 2009, 6:08PM

American Private Police Force has hired a director of operations for the Hardin jail project who will not be publicly named until next week but who is a “highly qualified” retired U.S. military person doing training in Afghanistan, a Hardin official tells TPMmuckraker.

“I’ve got his resume and it looks pretty nice,” says Al Peterson of the Hardin economic development agency, which brokered the jail deal with APPF.

Peterson wouldn’t say who the director of operations is, but confirmed it was not a Hardin local.

APPF official “Captain” Michael Hilton has said that his boss is a retired U.S. Army colonel named Richard Culver who is currently overseas, the AP reported last month. But the AP was not able to verify Culver’s role in the firm. And no colonel of that name has a footprint on Lexis-Nexis.

There’s been some chatter online that a former official of medical and security services firm International SOS — who is named Richard Culver — could be linked to APPF. But a member of the company’s security firm told us today that Culver, who left the company about a year ago, was not a U.S. citizen and had no affiliation with the Army.

We’ve put in a call with the Army about a Col. Culver, and we’ll let you know what we find out.

Late Update:: International SOS spokeswoman Erin Giordano tells TPMmuckraker the company has “no affiliation” with American Private Police Force. “It’s not the same Rich Culver,” she says.

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Another Blow To APPF’s Credibility: Contractor Says Web Site Material Was Lifted

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 5, 2009, 4:35PM

The head of a California defense contractor says that American Private Police Force brazenly copied information from its Web site and that it’s considering legal action against APPF.

CEO Edward Angelino of Allied Defense Systems told TPMmuckraker that APPF’s “Mike Hilton came to us for our help looking for supplies and equipment” for the mysterious project at an empty jail in Hardin, Montana.

After a bit of due diligence, Angelino deemed that Hilton and APPF were not fit to do business with — but not before referring APPF to Allied Defense Systems’ Web developer.

At that point, Hilton “copied a lot of our verbage into his web site, without our permission, without my consent,” Angelino says.

For example, check out this Allied Defense Systems page that advertises force protection equipment for “Nuclear/Biological/Chemical (WMD).” And then check out the wholesale duplicate of the Allied Defense Systems content on this APPF page (clumsily copied, it suggests that APPF is in fact selling weapons of mass destruction).

Hilton had claimed Allied Defense Systems was providing uniforms for APPF, the AP reported last week. As a result of that and the Web site plagiarism, an Allied lawyer sent APPF a cease and desist letter last week. And Angelino says there might be further legal action down the road.

He adds that Hilton described APPF’s parent company as a security firm operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, but couldn’t remember the name of the company. APPF’s ex-lawyer has said the parent company was founded in 1984.

APPF’s spokeswoman has not responded to requests for comment today.

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Serbian crest altered, claim that APF runs U.S. Training Center deleted

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Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Monday, October 5, 2009

In response to growing criticism and suspicion, American Police Force has changed its name, changed its logo and altered several areas of its website in an attempt to “diffuse tension” surrounding the private paramilitary organization that wants to take over law enforcement duties while bossing a $27 million dollar detention facility in Hardin, Montana.

Following threats of legal action on behalf of the government of Serbia against APF for using a near copy of the Serbian Coat of Arms, on Sunday the logo was changed although it still remains a double-headed eagle, which is widely accepted as signifying imperial power, not something many would be comfortable with for an organization that wants to provide law enforcement.

In addition, the company has changed its name from American Police Force to American Private Police Force.

The organization has also changed the language on its website and altered the claim that it runs the U.S. Training Center, which is actually controlled by Blackwater.

Original article

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APF spokesperson holds emotional press conference; lawyer quits project

Billings Gazette

TOM LUTEY Of The Gazette Staff October 2, 2009 7:40 pm

A sobbing spokeswoman for the secretive company occupying the Hardin jail welcomed an investigation by Montana’s attorney general Friday and expressed concerns for her own safety amid rumors about her company.

Becky Shay, in a 45-minute, wide-ranging press conference during which she occasionally broke into tears, said the California-based American Police Force welcomed an information request made Thursday by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.

Meanwhile, an attorney involved in the project cut ties with APF Friday and a second company, once named as a subcontractor, denied any involvement.

Shay said she hadn’t been formally served papers by the attorney general, who said he is concerned that APF might be violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. APF has reached a multimillion-dollar agreement with Hardin’s economic development arm, Two Rivers Authority, to run the empty Hardin jail, built two years ago to house inmates under contract. She said she had read of Bullock’s request in the news media.

Shay mentioned the attorney general’s request almost as a two-minute side note in a press conference that revealed that the former Billings Gazette reporter and new face of APF fears for her safety.

“A lot of work I’ve done has been to calm down or at least try to counteract comments from people I consider to be fear mongers,” Shay said. “What has happened in the interim, however, is those people’s friends around the nation have been in contact with me or tried to access me. I realize I’m being pretty vague so that we don’t support or incite these people. I don’t want my words to be taken out of context to further inflame the tensions that I’m working under.”

At that point, Shay began to cry. She asked TV media at the conference to turn their cameras off because, she said, “it’s important to me that I do not appear as vulnerable as I feel.”

APF officials, who rolled into Hardin last week in three black, Mercedes sport utility vehicles bearing faux police insignia and no license plates, have since departed, leaving Shay as the company’s lone point of contact for all comers, including those reading dire motives into APF’s insistent secrecy.

Shay said APF front man Michael Hilton plans to return to Hardin for a two-day job fair beginning Oct. 12.

Specifically, Shay mentioned Internet radio personality Alex Jones, of Austin, Texas. Jones, of infowars.com, was in Hardin on Thursday reporting on APF. Government and corporate takeovers of society are hot topics on Infowars. Jones indicated the Hardin situation was an example of the possibility of government or corporate takeover of a rural area.

Jones said Hardin’s story involved a convicted felon, Hilton, landing in the middle of nowhere and taking over a large jail capable of serving a city of several hundred thousand people. The facility, empty since it was constructed roughly two years ago, has room for more than 464 beds.

More from Billings

More Legal Issues for APF: Kulr8.com

Video from Billings Gazette

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Montana AG Probing American Police Force Deal

TPM MUCKRAKER- Zachary Roth | October 2, 2009, 9:50AM

Could the party be over for American Police Force?

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is investigating the mysterious security contractor’s deal to run an empty jail in the tiny town of Hardin, reports the Billings Gazette. And he doesn’t appear to be messing around.

In a nine-page letter sent late yesterday afternoon to Becky Shay — the former Gazette reporter who recently signed on as APF’s public relations director — Bullock said he’s probing whether APF may be violating Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

Specifically, Bullock wants proof for many of the statements on APF’s website which have been called into question by media reports in recent days — such as the claims that the company frequently has contracts with the U.S. government, and has operations in all 50 states.

Bullock also has asked for a copy of the contract between APF and Hardin, which the town has so far declined to make public, and has asked that APF disclose any lawsuits filed against it or Michael Hilton — the APF official who led the negotiations with Hardin, and whose lengthy criminal record and alleged history of alcoholism has intensified concerns about the deal. Bullock also wants any correspondence between APF and any government agency that has accused the company of being deceptive.

Bullock sent a separate letter to Al Peterson and a second official with the Two Rivers Authority (TRA), Hardin’s economic development agency which signed the deal with APF. Peterson didn’t respond to the Gazette‘s request for comment, but asked yesterday by TPMmuckraker about the deal, he replied: “What have we got to lose?”

More on this to come…

Late Update: We’ve now obtained the letters from Bullock to APG [APF] to TRA. You can read them here.

The letter to TRA asks for all documents relating to the APF deal, and also, for information on “[a]ll direct or indirect interests Authority board members or their immediate families in American Police Force (including without limitation its officers, affiliates, or agents).”

In a conciliatory note, Bullock adds: “In writing, I also wish to express my understanding of your concern for your community and the pressure you are under to fill the unoccupied facility.”

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