A prominent self-described sovereign citizen who was arrested after trying to enter the White House conspired to launder money and buy a half-million-dollar motorhome, a Knoxville, Tennessee jury ruled last week.
Heather Ann Tucci-Jarraf is a big name among so-called sovereign citizens, a conspiracy theorist movement of people who believe themselves independent of the U.S. government and its laws. Tucci-Jarraf preached a sovereign citizen theory that claims all Americans are secretly allowed to withdraw vast sums from the Federal Reserve. But when she and one of her followers schemed to defraud banks of tens of millions, the real law came down on their heads.
Randall Keith Beane needed money. The 50-year-old Knoxville man was tens of thousands of dollars in debt in summer 2017. That’s when he saw a video on Tucci-Jarraf’s Facebook page.
Tucci-Jarraf, 45, is a well known member of the sovereign citizen movement, and was a member of a group that claimed to “foreclose” on the world’s governments and demand $10 billion from their treasuries in 2012. The 2012 scheme, which might sound ridiculous to outsiders, is standard fare in the conspiracy theory-laden language of sovereign citizens. Adherents might believe that the U.S. government secretly dissolved decades ago, or that they don’t have to pay their taxes because their names are spelled in capital letters on IRS forms.
The video on Tucci-Jarraf’s Facebook page purported to tell viewers how they could access a "secret savings account" by taking money from the Federal Reserve, prosecutors testified, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. Tucci-Jarraf had shared the video from another user, who uploaded it under the name of a Batman villain.
That didn’t stop Beane from following the video’s advice and using fake accounts to create $30 million worth of certificates of deposits at banks. From those fraudulent forms, he managed to withdraw $2 million and place an order for half-million-dollar mobile home, complete with two bathrooms and marble flooring.
FBI agents caught onto the fraud in July, just as a Tennessee motorhomes dealership was handing Beane the keys. Beane had the motorhome’s engine running, and was just about to drive away from the dealership when FBI agents caught up with him, one agent testified in January.
He told officers to contact Tucci-Jarraf, whom he described as his lawyer. But Tucci-Jarraf soon found herself characterized as an accomplice. Investigators discovered that Tucci-Jarraf had previously posed as Beane’s lawyer to pressure the United Services Automobile Association, a veterans’ financial services group, into accepting Beane’s bogus withdrawals, which he used to buy the luxury motorhome.
A Knoxville grand jury charged Tucci-Jarraf with fraud on July 17. But despite the outstanding warrant for her arrest, Tucci-Jarraf did not go into hiding. Instead, she made a trip to one of the country’s most heavily-surveilled buildings.
Days after Beane’s arrest, Tucci-Jarraf and two companions approached Secret Service agents outside the White House’s southwest gate to demand a meeting with President Donald Trump. Tucci-Jarraf asked the agents “to see if she was in the WH system for a meeting yet,” and attempted to put them on the phone with a colleague, whom she said had referred her to the president, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Tucci-Jarraf frequently writes favorable Facebook posts about Trump.)
Secret Service questioned Tucci-Jarraf and her companions. Tucci-Jarraf said she was staying at the Trump International Hotel. Agents arrested her there the following day when they realized she had a warrant out for her arrest.
Tucci-Jarraf’s and Beane’s arrests became a lighting rod among sovereign citizens, who claimed the pair were being punished for their political beliefs.
“Heather Ann Tucci- Jaraff AND Randall Keith Beane WERE UNLAWFULLY ARRESTED AND INCARCERATED FOR USING THEIR TREASURY DIRECT/ HIDDEN SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST ACCOUNT FROM HJR 192 AND THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE SLAVE TRADE,” reads one Change.org petition demanding the pair’s release. “THEY BOTH HAVE PROVIDED ALL OWNERSHIP AND TITLE OF THEIR TRUST. HEATHER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MEETING WITH TRUMP AT THE TIME OF HER ARREST”
The petition has nearly 2,000 signatures. Court proceedings in Tucci-Jaraff’s and Beane’s case took a similar turn for the absurd.
Sovereign citizens sometimes attempt to stall proceedings with a barrage of pseudo-legal language, demanding judges answer absurd questions or produce nonexistent documents.
During an October court appearance, for example, Tucci-Jarraf complained that the judge had failed to prove he was a judge.
“I have not received any documented evidence, sworn, validated, and verified by you that you exist,” Tucci-Jarraf said, according to court transcripts. “That you actually -- excuse me, you exist as far as being a judge that supposedly works for Eastern District of Tennessee, for the United States.”
The judge, C. Clifford Shirley, Jr., said he had no legal obligation to provide documents on command.
“So if you were to claim I was a zebra, I would have to issue proof that I wasn’t?” he asked, adding that he had been sworn in 16 years earlier.
Tucci-Jarraf responded that his swearing-in would have taken place “inside of the United States corporation,” which had been “foreclosed upon.” The argument continued for another 80 pages of court transcript.
But when the pair went to trial in late January and early February, a jury was less patient. The jury deliberated two and a half hours before finding both guilty of conspiracy to launder money, and Beane guilty of additional counts of wire and bank fraud.