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Threat letters to states led FBI to Unger shadowy past: Suspect in IRS fraud case invokes God, denies anti-government plot


Who is Glenn Richard Unger?

Federal prosecutors portray the former Potsdam orthodontist as an armed and reclusive anti-government tax cheat who was involved in a 2010 letter campaign to intimidate state governors, and who harbored a small arsenal inside a rented town of Lisbon home, from high-powered assault rifles to a handgun under his mattress.

Dr. Unger presented himself during a court appearance this month as a gifted healer, a writer, and man of God known only as Glenn Richard, who steadfastly refused to give his address and compared his prosecution “to what my savior went through.”

Court documents made public last week only add to the complex picture of a wanted man who reportedly surrendered quietly when approached by state police, then identified himself to troopers a short time later as a 1922 silver dollar.

Even his age seemed to be in question. While federal officials reported it as 62, state troopers told the Times that arrest records showed at least two different birth dates, in 1950 and 1951.

Dr. Unger, who maintained a practice in Potsdam during the 1980s and early 1990s, was indicted last month on allegations that he filed for more than $36 million in fraudulent income tax refunds from 2007 to 2011. He was arrested on Dec. 29 in Ogdensburg.

He has been associated by the government with the so-called sovereign citizens movement, which the FBI has described as a loose network of individuals “who believe that federal, state, and local governments operate illegally,” adopting tactics such as not paying their taxes and creating false license plates and driver’s licenses.

“I think he’s a danger to the community because it’s a dangerous combination of antigovernment beliefs and the possession of firearms, especially firearms capable of handling large amounts of ammunition,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ransom P. Reynolds told U.S. Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece during a Jan. 2 arraignment hearing in Albany.

“And I believe he’s also a danger to the community because of his statement that he would rather die than become subject to the government,” Mr. Reynolds told the judge, referencing another comment Dr. Unger allegedly made to troopers following his arrest.

Dr. Unger requested time to consider the release terms — a $50,000 bond, to be secured by real property and a financially secure individual— when the hearing was continued on Jan. 9. He had yet to accept them, and remained in custody late last week.

With Dr. Unger initially spurning counsel and representing himself before the court on Jan. 2, Judge Treece entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. According to court documents filed Tuesday, he has, however, since invoked his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to silence and representation by counsel, and will be represented a federal public defender.

A trial has been set for March 4 in Binghamton before Senior Judge Thomas J. McAvoy.

Prosecutors allege Dr. Unger’s fraudulent filings were made in Saratoga and Albany counties. The indictment does not mention Ogdensburg or St. Lawrence County specifically. It was only in court on Jan. 2 that Mr. Reynolds revealed where Dr. Unger was living when he was arrested: 10097 State Route 37 in Lisbon, outside Ogdensburg.

Mr. Reynolds said Dr. Unger rented a post office box in Clifton Park, Saratoga County, and had his mail collected and forwarded to the Lisbon address by an unnamed man who never wrote Dr. Unger’s name on the parcels.

Deed records show the Lisbon house is owned by Nathan D. Lovely of Potsdam, who purchased the single-family dwelling in 2006. Efforts to contact Mr. Lovely were unsuccessful.

Scott Akins, who lives immediately downhill from the house overlooking the St. Lawrence River, told a reporter he believed Dr. Unger began renting the home about a year and a half ago. But Mr. Akins didn’t often see the new neighbor in the cluster of homes that house a mix of seasonal and year-round residents.

“He struck me as odd, very reclusive,” Mr. Akins said of Dr. Unger.

There was no sign of recent activity at the home when a reporter visited on Friday.

Mr. Reynolds told the court that Dr. Unger came to FBI attention around April 2010, after the bureau began investigating letters sent to all 50 state governors that the FBI perceived as potential threats. The incident made national headlines after the governors in late March 2010 began to receive the letters, in which a group calling itself Guardians of the Free Republics told them to quit their posts within three days for face removal under its “Restore America Plan.” News reports suggested that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security did not believe the group was violent, but they did fear its anti-government rhetoric could incite others.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an international organization that tracks domestic terrorists and hate groups, the Guardians are one such sovereign group claiming to operate common-law courts in all 50 states for redress of numerous grievances, including bank foreclosures and tax prosecutions.

Agents probing the incident quickly honed in on an Internet radio host who allegedly also led seminars on how to avoid paying taxes: Dr. Sam Kennedy, an alias alledgedly used by Dr. Unger.

“The FBI ... learned that (Dr. Unger) taught two schemes at his seminars,” Mr. Reynolds said. One was how to obtain “money from the government by filing false tax returns,” and the other was “how to defraud others into accepting false security instruments in payment of debt.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, both are hallmarks of sovereign citizens and the Guardians.

In addition to the bogus tax refunds, Dr. Unger allegedly claimed — none of which was ever paid out, prosecutors said — he allegedly filed no legitimate income tax returns from 1999 to 2005, while he was operating Columbia County Orthodontics in Chatham, about 30 miles from Albany.

Dr. Unger told the judge that he has “never classified myself as a sovereign citizen,” but did acknowledge involvement with the Restore America Plan and the letters to governors.

The group, he said, included “some people in the upper echelons of military intelligence” and that it operates “within the law ... to restore the original republic.”

He maintained his capacity on the radio show was simply “as a reporter,” and that when he found out that some listeners were using tax forms incorrectly, “I publicly chastised the community and said ‘the process is dead, stop it.’”

Dr. Unger told Judge Treece, “There is nothing in any process, Judge, that would indicate anger, intent to deceive, propensity for flight or danger to the community.”

Mr. Reynolds argued that physical evidence, together with Dr. Unger’s behavior since being arrested, suggested otherwise.

On Dec. 19, the day the indictment was handed up, IRS and FBI agents executed a search warrant at a Chatham storage locker rented by Dr. Unger. Inside, Mr. Reynolds said, they found books including such titles as “How to Disappear in America” and “The DEA Stash and Hideout Handbook,” as well as literature about bomb-making and money laundering.

Dr. Unger was quietly taken into custody 10 days later — without incident, but not without alleged acts of defiance.

State police at Ogdensburg told the Times that troopers on patrol the afternoon of Dec. 29 saw Dr. Unger driving a 2001 Toyota Camry on Route 37 near his home. While not specifically monitoring the premises, the troopers were aware that there was a warrant for his arrest, state police said. Troopers said they were in the process of confirming the vehicle’s registration shortly after 4 p.m. that Saturday when Dr. Unger pulled over on Route 68 in Ogdensburg before they even activated their lights.

“At the time of his arrest, he provided the troopers with his driver’s license and identified himself as Glenn Unger,” Mr. Reynolds told Judge Treece. “However, later at the state police barracks, he stated that Glenn Unger was deceased as of November 2012 and that his identity is now a silver dollar,” offering a 1922 coin as proof.

Dr. Unger was taken to the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, and transferred to FBI custody. When FBI agents interviewed him, Dr. Unger replied “that he was grantor to the beneficiary of the trust, but he said to call him grantor,” Mr. Reynolds said.

The next day, Dec. 30, agents searched the Lisbon house. Inside, they found nine firearms, Mr. Reynolds said, including an UZI submachine gun and several handguns such as a TEC-9 semiautomatic. Six of the guns were listed on Mr. Unger’s pistol permit, Mr. Reynolds said, and “at this point, I’m not representing to the court that there is anything illegal” about them. Agents also found 16 boxes of sovereign citizen literature.

“The fact that he believed that he was the most wanted man in the country and possessed all these loaded firearms in his residence I think speaks volumes about his mentality,” Mr. Reynolds said.

Dr. Unger called it “downright impossible” to flee in a border region “virtually swarming with Homeland Security and helicopters and buzz planes.”

He also said many of the guns had been sealed in a box, as they had been for decades, relics of “nothing more than a youthful interest in firearms.” The literature in the storage locker, he added, was research for a book he was writing, “Plague of New York II,” a story about a terrorist “that exemplifies much of what’s going on in society.”

Dr. Unger also claimed a higher calling, saying that when he practiced dentistry “the Lord blessed me” with the gift of curing children’s headaches. He also said he “took a vow of poverty years ago” and maintained “a ministry in the north country ... visiting with the people who no one else will.”

Among those people, Dr. Unger described an ill woman he refers to “as the ex-wife because I don’t want to construe that I have a legal union.” Her name did not appear in the transcript. Motivating his request for release, Dr. Unger said, was “to set affairs in order” for her before the trial.

Of the legal system, Dr. Unger insisted he has no fear.

“It’s clear to me that my savior was put here to witness by trial, and he went through three of them,” Dr. Unger said, “and if it was good enough for him, by the Lord, (it) should be good enough for me.”

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