The AP reports:
…when Hardin officials announced this week that they had signed a deal with a California company to fill the empty jail, it was naturally a cause for celebration. Town officials talked about throwing a party to mark the occasion, their dreams of economic salvation a step closer to being realized.
But questions are emerging over the legitimacy of the company, American Police Force.
Government contract databases show no record of the company. Security industry representatives and federal officials said they had never heard of it. On its Web site, the company lists as its headquarters a building in Washington near the White House that holds “virtual offices.” A spokeswoman for the building said American Police Force never completed its application to use the address.
And it’s unclear where the company will get the inmates for the jail. Montana says it’s not sending inmates to the jail, and neither are federal officials in the state.
An attorney for American Police Force, Maziar Mafi, describes the Santa Ana, Calif., company as a fledgling spin-off of a major security firm founded in 1984. But Mafi declined to name the parent firm or provide details on how the company will finance its jail operations.
More info here
Who and what are The American Police Force? The news report in the first video at Weasel Zippers mentions that it was just formed in February.
What’s this all about, Alfie?
An internet sleuth at Now Public came up with this:
defenseproductsolutions.com is hosted on the same IP (22.214.171.124) as americanpolicegroup.com. Both sites feature the same logo. Click on the Catalog link on defenseproductsolutions.com and say ‘hello’ to Edward Angelino. Other business names associated with him: Allied Defense Systems, Inc.
(allieddefensesystems.com) and Defense Consulting Group, Inc. There are almost certainly many more. I only spent ten minutes on this. I looked through a couple of the sites that use the same template and noticed this:
Founded in 1990, ADS and its veteran team have serviced a variety of contracts under extreme conditions in the Middle East. Our projects have ranged from base camp construction operations to supplying world-class military vehicles. In the midst of international tensions, ADS will perform.
Founded in 2004, DPS and its veteran team have serviced a variety of contracts under extreme conditions in the Middle East. Our projects have ranged from base camp construction operations to supplying world-class military vehicles. In the midst of international tensions, DPS will perform.
Searching email@example.com will bring up more links for anyone who’s interested in unraveling these antics. Oh yeah! Do you have a, “2002 Lamborghini Murcielago tail winng or spoliler”[sic]? You might have a buyer. Guess who? Yep, that’s right. There are many addresses, phone and fax numbers associated with all of this. I’m not sure why the Associated Press and others haven’t made these connections, but it’s all available on Google.
Gawkler has a few more details:
- AFP’s group’s website boasts that they “successfully provided assistance in training foreign military organizations in combating transnational terrorism” and claims that it’s “recognized as one of the top security and investigation forces in the world.” Too bad no one’s ever heard of them — not even the U.S. government, a group with which AFP claims to have worked.
- In addition to fighting terrorism overseas, the group’s online digs say AFP’s renaissance agents work on “kidknapping [sic]” cases, investigates cheating spouses and offer convoy security in places like Pakistan.
- A group spokesperson who called himself “Captain Michael” told local news channel KULR 8 that they’re more interested in setting up a $17 million training camp than in operating the prison. This man would not specify how they plan to use the camp.
- Another fun fact: the group’s press secretary is a woman named Becky Shays, who used to be a reporter for Montana’s Billings Gazette and covered the Hardin Prison story, but told her former colleagues recently that they will not name the company’s true leaders, the source of its funding or how it plans to take its prisoners.
And more on that Defense Product Solutions connection:
Muckraker Kevin Flaherty, however, discovered that AFP’s website shares an IP address with Defense Product Solutions, which was founded in 2004, has contracts in the Middle East and works with a man named Edward Angelino, who in turn has worked with the militarily-inclined Allied Defense Systems, Inc. and Defense Consulting Group, Inc. A tangled web, indeed.
CBS News’ Crimesider has more.
UPDATE II (9/30):
Montana Rep. Bob Ebinger said more rumors were likely until Hardin and the company provide more details.
“Always when things are secretive, you end up getting everybody—on both the right and the left—making suppositions about what’s going on,” said Ebinger, a Democrat from Livingston.
Ebinger and other members of the Legislature’s Law and Justice Committee said they would ask Hardin officials to provide more information about the company.
In addition to taking over the 464-bed, $27 million jail, the company has said it will sink $17 million into a military training center and is seeking 5,000 acres or more for a live-fire training ground.
Company spokeswoman Becky Shay said there were no plans to reveal the project’s financial backers.
UPDATE III( 10/05):
Montana’s Attorney General is launching an investigation into the APF:
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock launched an investigation Thursday into American Police Force, the California company founded by a Serbian immigrant with a lengthy criminal history that is seeking to run an empty, 464-bed jail in Hardin.
Bullock sent a nine-page demand letter late Thursday afternoon to Becky Shay, the spokeswoman for APF and the company’s only Montana employee.
Shay did not immediately respond to phone calls Thursday.
According to the document, Bullock is launching the civil investigation into APF over concerns that the company might be violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
This follows revelations that the man behind the APF has a history of legal trouble:
Hilton pleaded guilty in March 1993 to 14 felonies, including 10 counts of grand theft, one count of attempted grand theft and three counts of diversion of construction funds, according to Orange County court records. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but it is unclear how much time he served.
Court records in that case list his real name as Michael Hilton, but they also include the aliases Midrag Ilia Dokovitch, Midrag Ilia Dokovich and Michael Miodrag.
Hilton, who speaks heavily accented English, has told reporters that he is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Montenegro, a country bordering Serbia, and once part of the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
The emblem for the APF closely matches the Serbian-Montenegro national crest: