Feds Show Force to Fugitive N.H. Couple
AP | June 8, 2007
PLAINFIELD, N.H. -- Heavily armed officers with an armored vehicle moved in Thursday on a fortified hilltop compound owned by a couple convicted of tax evasion, then insisted the show of force was just a precaution.
Officers detained a man walking a dog at the 110-acre spread belonging to Ed and Elaine Brown, but the man _ described as a supporter of the fugitive couple _ was not arrested, and authorities had no contact Thursday with the Browns, U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said.
Deputy U.S. marshals served a property seizure warrant at the office where Elaine Brown is a dentist in neighboring Lebanon. A judge had ordered the property forfeited as part of the couple's sentence for scheming to hide $1.9 million of income between 1996 and 2003.
The Browns insist federal income tax laws are invalid and stopped attending their trial partway through. They were convicted in January and have been fugitives since they were sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison each at an April hearing they did not attend.
Deputy marshals have negotiated daily with the Browns since January and will continue doing so, Monier said.
"As we have said from the beginning, we will continue to communicate with Ed and Elaine Brown to convince them to surrender peacefully," he said.
The Browns' home has a watchtower, concrete walls and the ability to run on wind and solar power. Ed Brown, who has shown at least one gun to reporters in the past, has said he has stockpiled food and supplies and would resist arrest. He has repeatedly threatened violence against federal officials and said he would rather die than admit income taxes exist.
"We needed to know where he was. We needed to know where his supporters were," Monier said, explaining the dramatic law enforcement presence. "We have no wish to have a violent encounter with either one of them."
Vehicles leaving a checkpoint early in the afternoon included an armored Massachusetts SWAT vehicle, an explosive disposal unit, a communications truck, industrial logging equipment and a New Hampshire state police cruiser driven by someone with camouflage face paint.
Elaine Brown answered a telephone call from The Associated Press about 11 a.m. by saying: "This is the Lord's House. This is Sister Elaine and Brother Edward."
Ed Brown said nothing was out of the ordinary at the house, criticized the media, then the couple hung up.
Earlier, he told a supporter that his suspicions were aroused when one of his visitors had left to walk the dog, but the dog came back alone. He also said the power had gone out twice overnight and an airplane had flown over the house, where he said he was holed up with supporters.
"It could be a test to see our response time, our reaction," he said, according to a recording the supporter posted online.
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