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Posts Tagged ‘APPF’

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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