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Posts Tagged ‘Hardin’

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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Michael Hilton

Hardin, Montana, Puts Jail Deal With APPF On Ice

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 6, 2009, 9:08AM

Spooked by a man who turned out to be a convicted felon and who appears to have repeatedly lied on his way to acquiring a lease for an empty jail in Hardin, MT, town leaders yesterday put the deal with American Private Police Force on hold.

Last week, the state attorney general launched a probe of the deal that was pushed through by a man calling himself “Captain” Michael Hilton.

The AP reports on the Hardin board meeting yesterday that put a stop to the whole project:

“We won’t move forward. I don’t think any of us want to be on the chopping block,” said Gary Arneson, president of Hardin’s Two Rivers Authority, which owns the jail. …On Friday, a California judge ordered Hilton to appear in court Oct. 27 over an outstanding judgment in a fraud lawsuit.

In that case, Hilton lured investors to sink money into an assisted living complex in Southern California that was never built. …

Arneson said no further action would be taken until the authority hires an attorney to replace Becky Convery, the lawyer who helped forge the agreement with American Police Force.

A bank that is trustee on the bond taken out by Hardin to build the jail — long in default — never OKed the deal with APPF. Besides the jail lease, the deal would give APPF the right to run the town’s law enforcement operations.

Also yesterday, Greg Smith, the chief of the town’s economic development agency who had been put on paid leave without explanation since a few days after the initial deal was brokered last month, gave up his post. No explanation was offered for why Smith, who was said to have conducted a background check on Hilton, resigned.

And AP reports that town officials were told by Hilton that a man named Michael Cohen, of International Security Associates in Ohio, would be director of operations for the jail project. But Cohen told the AP that’s not true — he only had a cursory meeting with Hilton.

Hardin official Al Peterson told TPMmuckraker yesterday that the director of ops was “highly qualified” and had a “pretty nice” resume, but was currently in Afghanistan.

This isn’t the first time Hilton has claimed that people and companies with whom he’s only had superficial contact would be playing major roles at APPF.

So what’s next? Even though the deal was never consummated, APPF has had the keys to the jail since at least a week. In fact, APPF flack — and former Billings Gazette reporter — Becky Shay has been working out of the facility, she told us last week.

Peterson told TPMmuckraker before the board meeting yesterday: “I have no idea who gave [the keys] to them or what day.”

Late Update: Guess who was a no show for that board meeting? KULR in Billings:

APF Spokeswoman Becky Shay said she wasn’t aware Hilton told the board he would attend Monday’s meeting. “Apparently he said he would be here before I went to work for him,” Shay said.

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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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APPF Lawyer Who Said Info Would ‘Gradually Be More Clear’ Quits

TPM MUCKRAKER– Justin Elliott | October 5, 2009, 3:35PM

Maziar Mafi, the California lawyer who had been variously identified as American Private Police Force’s legal affairs director, president, and a “major” in the company, on Friday severed his ties to the Hardin, MT, jail project until he sees “more concrete action.”

Mafi’s practice, like APPF, is based in Santa Ana, California. As a specialist in personal injury, immigration, and business law, he had seemed an odd choice of counsel for a firm that claims to play a critical role in filling the United States government’s “homeland security needs.”

Mafi told the AP: “For the time, I’m pulling out. I need to see more concrete action before I can be involved.”

And the AP observes that APPF official ‘Captain’ Michael Hilton misrepresented Mafi’s role in the organization:

Hilton, who claims an extensive military background and uses the title “captain,” initially described Mafi as a “major” in American Police Force. He later said Mafi was the company’s president–although Mafi denied the role and said he had no military or security background.

The AP quoted Mafi in the middle of September describing the company was a “as a fledgling spin-off of a major security firm founded in 1984.” Declining to name the firm in question, he said at the time: “It will gradually be more clear as things go along.”

Clearly, that did not happen to Mafi’s satisfaction.

Contacted by TPMmuckraker today, Mafi declined to comment about his relationship with APPF or about whether he’s still confident in his description of APPF’s parent company. APPF spokeswoman Becky Shay has not returned calls for comment.

The APPF project may have done more than damage merely Mafi’s reputation: he also “guaranteed the Sept. 10 purchase of two Mercedes SUVs by Hilton,” the AP reports. Those would be the SUVs that drove into town late last month bearing “City Of Hardin Police Department” decals. A payment on one of the vehicles is now late.

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