The "Party over" lights have begun to blink for American Police Force
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is investigating the mysterious security contractor's deal to run an empty jail in the tiny town of Hardin, reports the Billings Gazette. And he doesn't appear to be messing around.
In a nine-page letter sent late yesterday afternoon to Becky Shay -- the former Gazette reporter who recently signed on as APF's public relations director -- Bullock said he's probing whether APF may be violating Montana's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
Specifically, Bullock wants proof for many of the statements on APF's website which have been called into question by media reports in recent days -- such as the claims that the company frequently has contracts with the U.S. government, and has operations in all 50 states.
Bullock also has asked for a copy of the contract between APF and Hardin, which the town has so far declined to make public, and has asked that APF disclose any lawsuits filed against it or Michael Hilton -- the APF official who led the negotiations with Hardin, and whose lengthy criminal record and alleged history of alcoholism has intensified concerns about the deal. Bullock also wants any correspondence between APF and any government agency that has accused the company of being deceptive.
Bullock sent a separate letter to Al Peterson and a second official with the Two Rivers Authority (TRA), Hardin's economic development agency which signed the deal with APF. Peterson didn't respond to the Gazette's request for comment, but asked yesterday by TPMmuckraker about the deal, he replied: "What have we got to lose?"
Maziar Mafi, a lawyer from Santa Ana, Calif., who served as the legal affairs director for American Police Force, said he wanted to see the project begin to move forward before he could continue his involvement.
“For the time, I’m pulling out,” Mafi said. “I need to see more concrete action before I can be involved.“
Mafi’s involvement began last month. Hilton, who claims an extensive military background and uses the title “captain,” initially described Mafi as a “major” in American Police Force. He later said Mafi was the company’s president - although Mafi denied the role and said he had no military or security background.
Hilton claimed Allied Defense Systems would provide the uniforms for guards at the jail. On Sept. 30, an attorney for the Irvine company sent a letter to Hilton threatening a lawsuit over the use of the company’s name.
Edward Angelino, chief executive of Allied Defense Systems, an Irvine, Calif.-based defense contractor, said his company met with Hilton.
“We checked his background, we checked his company. He’s not an adequate person to do business with,” Angelino said.
So, who is Michael Hilton?
Hilton has a decades-long track record of fraudulent activities and spent several years in a California prison on grand theft charges. The native of Montenegro uses at least 17 aliases.
According to TPM, Captain Michael Hilton has used the following aliases:
* Miodrag Dokovich, Miodrag Djokich, Miodrag Djokovich, Michael Hamilton, Anthony M. Hilton, Michael A. Hilton, Michael Milton and Hristian Djokich, plus related variants.
And he has a lengthy list of previous arrests:
• 1988: Hilton arrested in Santa Ana, Calif. for writing bad checks.
• April 1990: Hilton is again arrested in Santa Ana for writing bad checks and for grand theft.
• 1992: A civil judgment of $83,000 is entered against Hilton and Ilia Dokovich.
• March 1993: Hilton pleads guilty in Orange County court to 14 felonies, including 10 counts of grand theft. One charge involves a $20,000 real estate scam, in which Hilton persuaded an associate to give him a deed on property in Long Beach, Calif., saying it was to be used as collateral on a loan, then sold the property to someone else. According to the AP, he spends six years in prison in California.
• March 2000: Hilton is accused of fraud, larceny, and breach of contract, in connection to a venture in which Hilton and others recruited the plaintiff to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to create collectible Super Bowl commemorative coins. According to the complaint, Hilton and the others said the money would be used for the design and manufacture of the coins and for a license to produce them from the National Football League -- but the NFL never issued a license. Hilton is ultimately ordered to pay the plaintiff $200,000.
• Around the same period: Hilton also faces two similar fraud suits: In one, he's accused of posing as a fine arts dealer to deceive a Utah couple into giving him a $100,000 silver statue. In the other, he is said to have teamed with a doctor to recruit investors for a southern California assisted-living facility that was never built.
• November 2002: Hilton files for bankruptcy, in order to avoid eviction by his landlord.
• March 2003: Hilton is arrested for DUI in Huntington Beach.
• February 2004: Hilton files for bankruptcy once more, again to avoid eviction.
• January 2006: A $5,052 judgment lien is entered against Hilton in Orange County, CA.
Who/What is American Police Force?
A shadowy private security company that has no known clients but claims to have helped foreign governments combat terrorism and will protect anything from cruise ships to Pakistani convoys.
APF's double-headed eagle coat of arms appears to be the same as Serbia's Prince Aleksandar Karageorgevich. And the AP reported that a lawyer for APF describes the firm as "a fledgling spin-off of a major security firm founded in 1984."
APF's Web site brags about "our extensive tactical firearms training facility, the U.S. Training Center." But the U.S. Training Center is part of Xe, nee Blackwater. And Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke told us there is no affiliation between Xe and APF.
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.
"APF plays a critical role in helping the U.S. government meet vital homeland security and national defense needs," the company says on its Web site. "Within the last 5 years the United States has been far and away our" number 1 client.
However, an Associated Press search of two comprehensive federal government contractor databases turned up no record of American Police Force.
It appears that American Police Force will become rather transparent shortly. With Michael Hilton's past history coming to light, his future will involve employment in the private sector, If anybody will have him. With possible Federal employment, in the pen.
The American Police Force? Who knows. Something tells me it won't involve prisoners in Montana.