Sovereign Citizen Extremists

  • Sovereign citizen extremists throughout the United States view federal, state, and local governments as illegitimate, lacking the authority to issue or enforce laws. They also assert they are not subject to questioning or arrest by law enforcement, paying taxes and fines, complying with summonses, or possessing official licenses.
  • Sovereign citizen extremists have engaged in counterfeiting, verbal and written harassment, unlawful property occupation scams, and financial fraud.
  • In 2016, sovereign citizen extremists conducted multiple attacks and plots. In September, Moses Ruben purposely crashed his car into two police vehicles after being pulled over and providing false identification. In July, Brandon Lara was arrested in Oklahoma City for plotting to attack a Black Lives Matter rally. Police found seven explosive devises in his bag. In May, Marcus Paden struck a police officer during a traffic stop encounter. 

THREAT TO NEW JERSEY: MODERATE

Sovereign citizen extremists in New Jersey mostly engage in nonviolent activities, such as self-identifying in court paperwork and traffic-stop encounters and filing liens against law enforcement and public officials. In May 2016, legislation in New Jersey enhanced the penalties on sovereign citizen extremists filing fraudulent financial documents or liens as a retaliatory tactic against public officials; however, criminal penalties are unlikely to deter sovereign citizen extremists because they are adopting new methods to circumvent laws.

  • In March 2016, a self-identified sovereign citizen in New Jersey filed seven fraudulent liens against public officials from prison totaling over $120 million. In 2015, the same individual mailed a letter to a Judge in Hunterdon County claiming wrongful imprisonment and demanded approximately $50,000 in relief.
  • In June 2016, Erick Shute, a former New Jersey resident, was arrested for killing three individuals in West Virginia over a property dispute. Shute was indicted in 2011 for attacking a New Jersey police officer and resisting arrest.

  • An NJOHSP review of 24 states with enacted or pending laws imposing penalties on fraudulent lien filers found that either laws are not expansive enough to cover victims or sovereign extremists have created new ways to get cases dismissed.

NEW JERSEY NEXUS

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  • The National Liberty Alliance (NLA), a sovereign-citizen extremist group claiming approximately 20 members in New Jersey, focuses on creating “common law grand juries,” asserting the authority to conduct investigations, issue indictments, and remove public officials from office. NLA has publicly encouraged members to intimidate government officials and engage in criminal activity.
  • New Jersey has an active community of Moorish sovereign citizens—including a man claiming to be the Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay Bagby, who was charged in 2014 with using fake diplomatic tags and driving without a license.

  • Moorish sovereign-citizen extremists in New Jersey are generally opportunistic, creating and selling fraudulent identification, squatting in abandoned houses, and filing false liens against public officials as a form of harassment.

Additional Resources

Washitaw Nation: Non-violent in New Jersey

Podcast Episode 29: Sovereign Citizen Extremists Podcast

Overlap Between Black Separatists and Moorish Sovereign Citizen Extremists


For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.