County targets 17 on bogus checks

Cleveland Plain Dealer/August 24, 2002
By Karl Turner

Members of an anti-government group called the Redemptionists flooded local businesses and county agencies with almost $4 million in worthless checks, authorities said yesterday in announcing charges against 17 people.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors and the sheriff's office worked with federal agents on a two-year investigation, which resulted in a 236-count secret indictment filed two weeks ago in Common Pleas Court.

Officials unsealed the indictment yesterday as they began rounding up those charged. All but one of those indicted face racketeering charges. Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Dan Kasaris said the group led a criminal enterprise designed to undermine the U.S. monetary system and enrich themselves.

The group espouses a "redemption-in-law" philosophy. Investigators call them "paper terrorists" who attempt to pay off debts without money and to use bogus legal and financial documents to punish people who try to stop them.

"One of the purposes of this indictment is to stop the spread of this philosophy that teaches people to steal," Kasaris said. "They're basically trying to get something for nothing."

Investigators claim the accused tried to use "sight drafts" - worthless documents that Redemptionists claim are backed by the U.S. government - to pay debts ranging from everyday household bills to the bonds of their confederates in jail.

Two of the accused, Charles Bailey and Timothy Littlejohn, deposited a $100,000 sight draft at Ohio Savings Bank on June 8, 2001, then returned a few days later and withdrew $80,030, Kasaris said.

The men had the money wired to a bank account in Estonia with the help of Akron lawyer Donald George, who is also charged with theft and uttering, Kasaris said. The money was then transferred to an account in Berlin and withdrawn through an Internet account, according to the international law-enforcement agency Interpol.

The investigation began in Lakewood with a pair of attempts by anti-government activists to buy cars from DeLorean Cadillac with bogus sight-draft checks. Four people were sentenced to prison for the attempts and for trying to intimidate the car dealer and court and police officials.

Sheriff Gerald McFaul assigned Detective Donald Cleland to investigate anti-government groups operating in the county.

Prosecutor William Mason assigned Kasaris to prosecute the case. The FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force, the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. postal inspectors also took part.

The focus of this round of indictments is the GTG or Untaxers - a North Olmsted Redemption group. Investigators say Matthew Perri and Leonard Williams were the leaders of the group.

The GTG brought Ron Lutz, a nationally known Redemption guru, from California to teach the philosophy, investigators say. Lutz is serving 17 years in prison for the DeLorean scam and related offenses.

Investigators found Redemptionists from Canton to Cleveland using bogus documents to pay utility bills, mortgage payments and property taxes.

Police in Canton arrested Dionne Bailey on racketeering charges. She will be brought to Cleveland to face the charges. Her husband, Charles Bailey, also faces racketeering charges, but police have not yet arrested him.

Also charged are California residents George Bridge and James Rivers, who are accused of trying intimidate local officials with bogus court documents, Cleland said. They face racketeering charges, as does James Keating of the state of Delaware.

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