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Claim for $1B tax refund ends with plea deal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 71-year-old self-proclaimed “sovereign citizen” was sentenced to time served Wednesday after pleading guilty in federal court to filing a false federal income tax refund claim for $958,163,765 in 2010.

Frances Jo Mehner, a retired court reporter formerly of Rio Rancho, fled New Mexico after her 2014 indictment and was arrested in Illinois in August.

She was sentenced to 207 days, which she served awaiting trial, and was given a year of supervised probation.

Two other counts in the indictment were dismissed, including a charge of filing a false federal income tax refund for $211 million.

She received no money as the result of her false income tax filings and faced up to five years in prison for each charge of false returns.

Mehner filed court documents while she was on the run with her husband seeking to have the indictment dismissed on various grounds – including that she was not Frances Jo Mehner, but Frances Jo of the house of Mehner – while she was on the run with her husband.

So-called “sovereign citizens” don’t recognize the authority of states or the federal government to impose income taxes, among other beliefs that vary widely.

In one court filing, Mehner wrote, “I am a peace-loving woman injured by a predatory U.S. bank that stole my home and left my husband and I for months on the street without shelter.”

And in the same document, she said, “I am a human being in the private sector under God’s law, but possess a belief that I have no duty to the State.”

She also tried to file a “counter complaint” against the government as a foreign corporation for overreaching its authority for the purpose of commercial gain.

Federal prosecutors called many of the legal documents Mehner filed on her own behalf “incomprehensible.”

But they agreed to a lower sentence because she agreed to plead guilty and avoid the cost of a trial. At her arraignment in Albuquerque after her arrest, she refused to answer questions from a U.S. magistrate judge, answering only, “I don’t understand.”

She was found competent to stand trial after a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

Because of Mehner’s obstructive behavior toward the IRS, District Judge James Browning also ordered Mehner to comply with several special conditions during her term of supervised release, including filing timely, accurate and lawful tax returns.

Browning also ordered that Mehner may only communicate with the IRS through a licensed attorney.

She is also prohibited from filing any liens or other forms against any employee of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or the IRS.

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