Prosecutors say that Susan Lorraine Weidman, 52, and Matthew Lowery, 29, tried to take possession of houses they did not own, according to a report by Dunwoody (Ga.) Patch.
Both have proclaimed themselves "sovereign citizens" -- a movement which holds that the government holds legal authority only over those who consent to it. "Sovereign citizens" believe that by declaring their refusal to consent to government control, they exempt themselves from things such as taxes, mortgage payments and property laws. No "sovereign citizen" defense has ever been successful when adherents of the movement have been brought to trial.
In the Georgia case, Weidman entered a vacant home, changed the locks and filed false documents with the DeKalb County clerk claiming the house as her own, according to Patch. Lowery, meanwhile, also took up residence at a vacant home.
When Lowery's "ownership" was challenged by the bank that actually owned the home, Weidman sent a letter from a fictitious law firm, signed by a nonexistent lawyer on behalf of a wholly imaginary property-management company, threatening legal action against the bank's representatives, Patch reported.
"The ludicrous ‘explanations’ these defendants gave for going into vacant houses and trying to claim them as their own defies common sense, and the jurors saw that," said Cobb County, Ga., Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin. "Ms. Weidman went so far as to create a fictitious law firm and assume fake names. If she believed what she was doing was legal, as she claimed, she wouldn’t have to lie about it. This verdict should send a message to all sovereign citizens: Don’t commit your crimes in Cobb County."
A father and son who were indicted with Weidman and Lowery have already pleaded guilty, Patch reported. Giulio Greye, 61, and Ian Greye, 34, were sentenced to five and 10 years, respectively
Two self-described "sovereign citizens" from Georgia are each facing up to 40 years after being convicted on mortgage fraud and racketeering.