The New York Times on Sunday took a spin through the shadowy world of "sovereign-citizens," tax scammers who profit from pretending the government doesn't exist (and therefore cannot levy taxes or collect debts).
"A loose network of perhaps tens of thousands of far-right anti-government extremists, sovereigns share certain conspiratorial beliefs and, sometimes, a desire to profit off a government whose legitimacy they deny," the Times reports.
Although the story focuses on Sean David Morton, a Californian and architect of several tax avoidance gimmicks, the sovereign movement has a long history in Oregon. Winston Shrout, an Oregonian who was sentenced to ten years in federal prison last year for tax evasion schemes, makes a cameo.
Morton, Shrout and other peddlers of conspiracy theories rounded up a boatload of followers in 2016.
The cruise they put together illustrates a cross-over between the tax-scammers and people who don't believe in vaccinations:
"About 100 guests on board had paid $3,000 each for what was marketed as the Conspira-Sea Cruise — a week-long jaunt through Mexican waters and American paranoia, from "Vaccinations: Do You Really Know What's Coming Through That Needle?," the Times reports. "Another guru on the Conspira-Sea Cruise…Winston Shrout (workshop: "Conspiracy of the Court System")."
The cruisers apparently didn't appreciate her scrutiny and, after five days aboard, she was persona non grata.
"I was locked in my stateroom on Baja Deck, picking at a room-service cheeseburger," Dickey writes. "Earlier that afternoon, a pair of Conspira-Sea presenters had chased me—chased me—from a conference room. This wasn't our first confrontation, and now I feared they were tracking me around the ship, waiting to spring out from blind corners and empty doorways."