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Marshal: 4 associates of tax-evading couple arrested
September 12, 2007
CONCORD, N.H. --Four men accused of helping obstruct justice in the case of convicted tax evaders Ed and Elaine Brown have been arrested, U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said Wednesday.
Monier said the men are Cirino \"Reno\" Gonzales, 30, of Alice, Texas; Daniel Riley, 40, of Albany, N.Y.; Jason Gerhard, 22, of Brookhaven, N.Y.; and Robert Wolffe, 50, of Randolph, Vt.
Charges range from accessory after the fact to possession and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
Officials believe that the men participated in various efforts to assist the Browns in avoiding justice at their rural home in Plainfield and conspired to impede federal agents.
The Browns, who were convicted in January and have refused to turn themselves in to authorities, claim the federal income tax is not legitimate. Supporters from across the country have visited them at their home, although some relationships have come to a bitter end: The Browns have squabbled with bloggers, radio hosts, and several spokesmen and assistants.
A Web site about the Browns says they\'re planning to hold a fundraising event on their property on Saturday.
Monier said Gonzales was arrested in Alice, Texas; Riley in Cohoes, N.Y.; Gerhard at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and Wolffe in Hartford, Vt.
\"In this case, these men are alleged to have helped the Browns in their ongoing refusal to surrender to authorities,\" Monier said. \"The Browns have engaged in a course of conduct that has led to further criminal investigations into their activity. Anyone who aids the Browns is subject to investigation, arrest and prosecution for serious felonies, which carry very heavy prison sentences.\"
Earlier this year, officials cut power and telephone service in an effort to ratchet up pressure on the couple convicted of scheming to avoid federal income taxes by hiding $1.9 million of income between 1996 and 2003. The Browns said they hadn\'t noticed the changes, they can survive on generators and they have 103 wooded acres to keep warm this winter. Their home is on an isolated dirt road and includes a turret that offers a 360-degree view of the property and a driveway that is sometimes barricaded with sport utility vehicles.
The Brown\'s phone numbers still appeared to be disconnected on Wednesday.
Also, heavily armed police once surrounded the Browns\' home and readied for combat in June while they seized commercial property the couple owned in a neighboring town. SWAT teams, military and explosives vehicles marshaled in the tiny town and sparked rumors -- and expectations -- of a raid. U.S. marshals said it was only for surveillance.
Those authorities were seen by Riley, who was out walking the couple\'s dog when he was detained by marshals.
Since abandoning his federal trial and retreating to his home, Ed Brown has repeatedly said that any attempts to arrest him would result in a violent confrontation. He\'s also directly named investigators, prosecutors and the judge in his case, suggesting that they could be killed if anything happens to him. At other times, he has said their actions to date already justify retaliation.
\"This was a tax case,\" Monier said Wednesday, \"but over the last seven months, the Browns have allegedly obstructed justice and encouraged others to assist them. Ed Brown has threatened to kill law enforcement and other governmental officials. So, our message to the Browns is clear: do the right thing, call us, and surrender peacefully.\"
Monier said his office will continue to assist local police to control access to the Browns\' property, in a safe manner \"and with minimal intrusion to the Plainfield community.\"