Hmmm, what’s up with this?
This is the strange story of how American Police Force, a little known company which claims to specialize in training military and security forces overseas, has seemingly taken control of a $27 million, never-used jail, and a rural Montana town’s nonexistent police force.
After arriving in this tiny city with three Mercedes SUVs marked with the logo of a police department that has never existed, representatives of the obscure California security company said preparations were under way to take over Hardin’s jail, which has no prisoners.
Significant obstacles remain – including a lack of any contracts to acquire prisoners from other jails or other states.
And on Friday came the revelation the company’s operating agreement for the facility has yet to be validated – two weeks after city leaders first unveiled what they said was a signed agreement.
. . .
The lead public figure for American Police Force, Michael Hilton, said more than 200 employees would be sought for the jail and a proposed military and law enforcement training center.
. . .
But the company’s flashy arrival this week stirred new questions. The logo on the black Mercedes SUVs said “City of Hardin Police Department.”
Yet the city has not had a police force of its own for 30 years.
“Pretty looking police car, ain’t it?” Hardin resident Leroy Frickle, 67, said as he eyed one of the vehicles parked in front of a bed and breakfast where Hilton and other company representatives were staying. “The things you hear about this American Police, I don’t know what to think.”
. . .
Little has been revealed to date about American Police Force. The company was incorporated in California in March, soon after Hardin’s empty jail gained notoriety after city leaders suggested it could be used for the Guantanamo Bay terrorism detainees.
. . .
On Friday, American Police Force announced its first local hire: a reporter for the Billings Gazette, Becky Shay, who has covered events surrounding the jail since its construction. She will be the company’s spokeswoman for $60,000 a year.
Shay said she intended to bring new transparency to the process, but declined to directly answer the first question posed to her: Where is American Police Force getting the money to operate the jail and build the training center?
“I know enough about where the money is coming from to be confident signing on with them,” she said.
Michael Hilton pitched himself to officials in Hardin, Mont. as a military veteran turned private sector entrepreneur, a California defense contractor with extensive government contracts who promised to turn the rural city’s empty jail into a cash cow.
Hardin’s leaders were desperate to fill the $27 million jail, which has sat empty since its 2007 completion.
So when Hilton came to town last week — wearing a military-style uniform and offering three Mercedes SUVs for use by local law enforcement — he was greeted with hugs by some grateful residents. The promise of more than 200 new jobs for a community struggling long before the recession hit had won them over.
But public documents and interviews with Hilton’s associates and legal adversaries offer a different picture, that of a convicted felon with a number of aliases, a string of legal judgments against him, two bankruptcies and a decades-long reputation for deals gone bad.
American Police Force is the company Hilton formed in March to take over the Hardin jail.
“Such schemes you cannot believe,” said Joseph Carella, an Orange County, Calif. doctor and co-defendant with Hilton in a real estate fraud case that resulted in a civil judgment against Hilton and several others.
“The guy’s brilliant. If he had been able to do honest work, he probably would have been a gazillionaire,” Carella said.
Court documents show Hilton has outstanding judgments against him in three civil cases totaling more than $840,000.
As for Hilton’s military expertise, including his claim to have advised forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, those interviewed knew of no such feats. Instead, Hilton was described alternately by those who know him as an arts dealer, cook, restaurant owner, land developer, loan broker and car salesman — always with a moneymaking scheme in the works.
Hilton did not return several calls seeking comment. American Police Force attorney Maziar Mafi referred questions to company spokeswoman Becky Shay.
When asked about court records detailing Hilton’s past, Shay replied, “The documents speak for themselves. If anyone has found public documents, the documents are what they are.”
Shay declined comment on Hilton’s military experience.
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So exactly what the hell is going on here anyway?
/hey, don’t ask me, your guess is as good as mine
Filed under: Blog Entry | Tagged: American Police Force, Becky Shay, Billings Gazette, California, Guantanamo Bay, Hardin, Jail, Joseph Carella, Law Enforcement, Law Enforcement Training, Law Enforcement Training Center, Leroy Frickle, Maziar Mafi, Michael Hilton, Military, Military Training, Military Training Center, Montana, Orange County, Paramilitary, Police, Prison, Prisoners, Security, Security Forces, Security Training, Terror Detainees, Terrorists, Training | Leave a Comment »