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Tax Protester Charged with Conspiracy

A federal indictment has charged a Pensacola, Florida, tax protester and sovereign citizen, Fred "Sport" Suttles, with ten criminal counts.  The charges describe a tax conspiracy to defraud the IRS since 1990, including evasion of tax payments, failure to pay employee taxes and obstruction of due administration of tax revenue laws, resulting in excess of $2.5 million owed to the government.

Co-defendant Mary Ham, 56, is charged with a single count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS.  She pleaded not guilty on October 4 and is under house arrest until trial.

Sutter and Ham are tax protesters who claim that they are not legally obligated to pay taxes.  The case centers around Sutters' Northwest Florida jewelry store.  The indictment alleges that the two wrote letters to the IRS claiming they were not legal residents of the United States or the state of Florida, a common argument made by tax protesters and sovereign citizens.

According to the IRS, Suttles and Ham attempted to elude IRS agents after learning that they were to be served with subpoenas as part of a grand jury investigation.  Suttles was believed to be hiding in a motel, while Ham disappeared for two months.

Like many members of the anti-government sovereign citizen movement do, Suttles decided to represent himself in court. At his arraignment, when asked how he pleaded, he answered, "I accept for value of the charges."  When informed by the judge that he would have to plead "guilty" or "not guilty," Suttles repeated the phrase.  The peculiar phrase is language used by practioners of  "redemption", a pseudo-legal set of sovereign citizen tactics.

Declaring Suttles' plea "meaningless," the judge entered a plea of "not guilty" on his behalf, and ordered the Public Defenders Office "on standby" to assist Suttles before and during his trial.

Suttles has been incarcerated at Santa Rosa County Jail since July 28 when a judge held him in contempt for refusing to provide a handwriting sample to a grand jury.

If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 48 years in prison.

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