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Paul Cardwell testifies against former cellmate

Burlington man, a ‘sovereign citizen,’ convicted of bank fraud  

Paul Cardwell was back in federal court last week — not as a defendant, but as a witness for the prosecution.

Cardwell, who’s currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for defrauding hospitals in Powell and Indiana out of nearly $1.7 million, was called to testify against a Burlington man charged with bank fraud.

Cardwell had shared a cell with Marvin Iverson while their unrelated cases were pending. On July 29, Cardwell shared some of their conversations with the jury hearing Iverson’s case.

Jury members convicted Iverson of the felony fraud count on Wednesday.

Iverson allegedly wrote a series of checks on a closed account between April and September 2012 to try paying off various debts, including a $369,300 mortgage, his Big Horn County property taxes and sales taxes for his business, Marv’s Meat Processing. One of the institutions defrauded was Big Horn Federal Savings Bank, as Iverson tendered bad checks to the bank’s Greybull and Cody branches.

Iverson opened the account in question on April 9, 2012, and closed it 10 days later, but then continued to write checks on the account.

FBI Special Agent Kent Smith said in an affidavit filed with the case that it appeared to be a scheme taught and practiced by people known as “sovereign citizens.”

Presiding U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson has described sovereign citizens as people who claim that, although they were born and live in the United States, they’re their own sovereigns and not U.S. citizens subject to state or federal courts’ jurisdiction.

Members of the movement argue that when a person is charged in court, it’s not their actual physical person being charged but rather a separate corporate “straw man” that exists only on paper. For example, shortly before the start of the trial, Iverson filed paperwork saying his corporate “trust” was going to pay the bill for all the charges and on the checks he passed at Big Horn Federal. Iverson described himself as an “authorized representative.”

The three-day trial in Cheyenne featured testimony from six witnesses for the prosecution, including two bankers, Agent Smith and Cardwell.

According to John Powell — a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne — Cardwell told the jury that Iverson had described himself as a “patriot” who’d become disgruntled with the government and banking industry.

Cardwell recalled Iverson stating that the banking industry had wronged many people, including his friends, and that he’d used the closed account scheme to buy vehicles, Powell said.

Iverson also reportedly told Cardwell he’d jumped bail in early 2013 because he didn’t believe the federal court had any jurisdiction over him.

Iverson represented himself and called himself as the only witness in his defense.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Johnson on Oct. 8.

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