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Freemen Devotee Gets 16 Years for Check Scam

Court: M. Elizabeth Broderick, convicted on 26 counts, is sentenced to prison for issuing the bogus warrants.

March 11, 1997|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saying that she had done more damage to the banking system "than most bank robbers," a federal judge Monday sentenced M. Elizabeth Broderick to 16 years in prison for running a bogus-check scam inspired by the Montana "freemen" that defrauded victims from large financial institutions to poor followers.

"You dropped an atomic bomb on the banking system with this bogus scheme," said U.S. District Court Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian.

"You're not a patriot," he said, rejecting Broderick's claim that she was resisting a tyrannical government in issuing homemade checks at seminars throughout Southern California between October 1995 and April 1996.

"You defrauded thousands of people . . . people who were desperate."

Broderick, a 53-year-old former teacher, defended herself, saying, "I was here to give damages to the American people. You can lock me up, but you can't lock up my knowledge."

A federal court jury convicted Broderick in October of 26 counts including conspiracy, fraud and money laundering for organizing and leading a scam in which Broderick's customers paid up to $200 to attend her seminars and $100 for each blank check, which she described as a "comptroller's warrant" backed by more than $1 billion in liens against the U.S. government.

In all, prosecutors contended, Broderick and her convicted accomplices--Barry Switzer of Canyon Country, Reseda chiropractor Julian Cheney and Adolf Karl Hoch of the Moreno Valley--issued $800 million in phony warrants. Her total take, according to prosecutors, was about $1.2 million.

Many of Broderick's clients tried to pay off their debts and mortgages with the warrants, some of which were temporarily accepted by banks and other financial institutions.

"We're glad this portion of the case is over," said assistant U.S. Atty. Aaron Dyer. "Her intended victims were the creditors and the banks. But "she was obviously taking advantage of people who were in desperate straits."

Even before her trial, Broderick made headlines for her association with the Montana freemen, the right-wing separatists who last year engaged federal authorities in an 81-day siege as they tried to resist arrest for writing bad checks. The incident ended peacefully.

Broderick, a self-proclaimed freemen disciple who prosecutors said had learned the check scam from the group, contended that the government had gone bankrupt in 1932 and had been issuing worthless paper money ever since.

At the sentencing, Tevrizian pointed out that the Canadian-born defendant was trying to have it both ways by using the very U.S.-backed currency she said was worthless. In addition to her time in prison, Broderick was ordered to pay a $26,000 fine and forfeit the estimated $1.2 million in proceeds from the checks.

Switzer and Julian Cheney, who were convicted of 16 counts and 11 counts respectively, will be sentenced Monday. Adolf Karl Hoch, 52, who pleaded guilty last August to 15 counts and faces up to 165 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced April 17.

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