Big Scam in Big Sky Country

by Chris Katko

On Monday, September 28, a black Mercedes SUV left the town of Hardin, Montana transporting Michael Hilton, the head of American Police Force (APF), back to Santa Ana, California. Missing from its doors were the decals that had stirred up a controversy locally and, to a lesser extent, nationally. On the previous Wednesday, citizens in this part of Big Sky Country were alarmed when strangers began to roll into their town of less than 3,500 people. The strangers were in three black vehicles marked City of Hardin Police Department. Hardin has not had a police department since 1979.

“[Hilton] could not fly here because of doctor’s orders so they drove here,” explained Al Peterson. “That’s why they were in those cars.” Peterson is Hardin’s superintendent of schools, and moonlights as vice president of Two Rivers Authority (TRA), the city’s economic development arm. On September 10, TRA signed a contract with APF to manage TRA’s main project, the 460-bed prison that has remained empty since it’s completion in September 2007.

The sudden display of unauthorized law enforcement in Hardin disturbed many of the locals, prompting Mayor Ron Adams to request that Hilton remove the decals from the vehicles just two days after his arrival. The Sheriff’s Department currently has the contract to patrol within the city limits. Although the city has been negotiating to de-consolidate current agreements in an attempt to reestablish a city police force, severe budget restraints have hindered progress. Hilton tried to ease the tension created by the presence of his marked cars by stating the cars were a show of APF’s commitment to help Hardin establish a police force. He offered to turn the cars over to the city at a later date as a gesture of good will, in an attempt to convince residents that he was simply there to help.

What Hilton was unclear about, however, was his real identity. During his first two days in Hardin, he would only identify himself as “Captain Michael” to local and national press. Later he would give his full name as “Captain Michael Hilton.” His real name, however, is Miodrag Dokovich, of Montenegro, in former Yugoslavia. The Montenegro coat of arms is the center piece of the Hardin Police Department logo placed on the doors of the SUVs, in which he and his entourage arrived.

American Police Force has promised to hire locally, although they currently have less than 30 employees in the United States. There are a projected 250 jobs awaiting the residents of this area, which has been deeply affected by recent economic woes. Although a contract has been signed between Hilton’s [a.k.a Dokovich] APF and Hardin’s TRA, the deal has not been approved by the bondholders for the Two Rivers detention facility.

Two Rivers Authority was established by the city council in May 2004. Two years later, neither Yellowstone County nor the state of Montana could come to an agreement with TRA regarding the use of project. TRA’s initial intent was to profit by housing federal and out-of-state prisoners. At one point Two Rivers proposed Native Americans enrolled in rehabilitation programs be housed at the site. The state government of Montana maintained that such actions were the responsibility of the Montana Department of Corrections, not a city based entity. In May, 2006, the City Council voted to finance the project with revenue bonds instead of tax dollars. Texas-based Municipal Capital Market Groups Inc. stepped in. Construction began the next month, and was completed by September, 2007, although TRA had yet to gain a single contract for housing inmates. In December, 2007, TRA and the city of Hardin filed a lawsuit with the state to gain permission to house inmates, which they won in June of 2008 and began the search for contracts.

The following year, Barack Obama announced plans to close Guantanamo Bay. Two Rivers Authority then made it known they would be willing to house detainees from overseas. APF contacted TRA in April of this year, and ten months of negotiation ensued.

The last five years of planning commissions, construction, legal appeals, contract negotiations, and the costs of maintaining a large empty facility has left Hardin with a bill totaling $27 million, and those Texas boys want their money back.

In an area that has an official unemployment rate of 11.3 % and an average annual wage of $24,000, paying back the bonding company will be no easy feat. TRA’s debt to Municipal Capital Market Group averages out to $7,978 per person.

APF’s offer to dump 30 million dollars into the city coffers, followed by at least $2.6 million per year for the next ten years is just what the people at TRA have prayed for, in the hope that such a deal will justify their potentially disastrous attempts at job creation during a time when the economy of the United States has been rolling along slower than a freight train with square wheels.

As of this date, Dorsey & Whitney LLP of Missoula, Montana is reviewing the contract for Two Rivers. The legal language must be rewritten in order to assure a tax exempt status for the bonding company. American Police Force, due to last week’s less than impressive media appearance, must prove they are a legitimate enterprise with the qualifications to oversee a detention center that may eventually house terrorists.

The people of Hardin, Montana must look at APF’s website, and it’s slideshow of posing Eastern European soldier models, set to Ravel’s “Bolero,” boasting of international expertise in the fields of convoy security, weapon sales, hostage and kidnapping negotiation, and last but not least, cheating spouse surveillance. Then the people of Hardin must decide if this is what they want in their town, not the city council’s town. A source that chose to remain anonymous has stated that Hardin, Montana not only has internet service, but plenty of ammunition and coffee as well.