Dy’er Sez: It seems that the media attention on APF and the city of Hardin reached enough of a boiling point that the deal, which was clung to very tightly by the parties involved, may just fizzle out.
After a public meeting in Hardin, the president of the Two Rivers Authority (which currently owns the jail), Gary Arneson, announced that the deal will not be going forward. “We won’t move forward. I don’t think any of us want to be on the chopping block,” he said.
This announcement comes right on the heels of ‘Captain” Michael Hilton, who runs APF, being ordered to a California court to answer for an unpaid $700,000 in judgments from a prior fraud lawsuit. As well as another apparent lie told by ‘captain’ Hilton (one of a dozen aliases) announcing that a man named Mike Cohen would be running the jail for APF. According to the Billings Gazette, Mr. Cohen is experienced in the field, but denies that he was hired by APF. In fact, his story only adds fuel to the fire of how bizarre this whole thing is. The Billings Gazette reports:
“ …(he) had recently returned from Iraq when he came across the APF Web site early in September. Interested in various opportunities listed there, he sent in his resume and an application.
He said Hilton called him soon after that and talked about various jobs, but refused to divulge any details unless they met in person in California or Montana.
“I just didn’t feel right about the conversation,” Cohen said, so he e-mailed Hilton the next day and said he needed answers to specific questions before pursuing the job any further.
Hilton didn’t write or call back until about two weeks later, when he told Cohen that he still was interested in hiring him. Cohen said Hilton still refused to answer any questions, however, so Cohen stopped talking to him.
That was the last Cohen heard of APF until last Friday, when Crane called Cohen and told him that Hilton had identified him as his new director of operations in Hardin. Crane also told him that Hilton presented the TRA board with Cohen’s resume, touting his new director.
“Friday afternoon was the first I heard about it,” Cohen said. “I told him (Crane) flat out, I have no idea who this joker is.”
Additionally, it seems that some of the rats are jumping ship as well. According to a story on PrisonPlanet.com, :
“Both the attorney and the economic development official who helped craft the original deal between APF and the Two Rivers Authority have now resigned, and they were followed on Monday by Greg Smith, the agency’s executive director who conducted a background check on Hilton. Smith was put on paid leave and resigned last night.”
Although the whole deal seems to be crumbling, no one involved on the side of APF, the Two Rivers Authority, or the Mayor’s office are willing to release the name of the highly touted parent company of APF (one wonders if there even is a parent company) even though they all claim to know who it is.
It seems to me that not only were the city’s representatives bamboozled by an apparent con man, but they were so blinded by their own greed that they were willing to forgo normal background check procedures, put the entire city (as well as the city’s coffers) into jeopardy, and did everything they could to destroy the Constitution of the state as well as create a police state situation in allowing a mercenary force to occupy their town in the guise of a local police force.
I have no doubt that a very thorough investigation needs to be done by the state’s AG, after which I believe that he will find that there is ample evidence for more than just a few heads to roll (starting with ‘Captain’ Michael, the Mayor and council members of Hardin and the Two Rivers group who set the whole thing up).
It would be an absolute travesty is the legal action buck stops when the press coverage dies down.