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The sales pitch - make your debts disappear with a few transactions and a little legal abracadabra - sounded too good to be true.
Federal prosecutors say that's the financial spell Randall Keith Beane tried to cast with the counsel of Heather Ann Tucci-Jarraf, a former prosecutor turned evangelist for the sovereign citizens movement.
More: Pair of 'Sovereign Citizens' stand trial in Knox; one sought meeting with Trump
Beane's act of faith landed him and Tucci-Jaraf at the defense table in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, where they're standing trial this week on charges of conspiracy to launder money. Beane, 50, also faces charges of wire and mail fraud.
The trial continues Thursday, with each acting as their own attorney.
A promised fortuneProsecutors say Beane, an Air Force veteran working for Advantage Innovations in Knoxville, saw what looked like a deliverance from tens of thousands of dollars in debt he owed to the United Services Automobile Association, an online banking service catering to current and former military personnel.
Beane somehow came across a YouTube video promoted on social media by Tucci-Jaraf that laid out how to tap into a "secret bank account" and ride it to financial nirvana, court testimony indicated.
The video recycles popular – and repeatedly discredited – tropes of the "sovereign citizens" movement, a cultish collection of true believers who deny the legitimacy of government authority from the White House to the city hall and cling to the notion that the right legal formula can unlock the door to riches and freedom from debt and taxation.
Various figures in the movement have promoted schemes that nearly always end in foreclosures and prosecutions for tax evasion and fraud.
Prosecutors say Beane used automatic delays in the banking system of transfers of money from one bank to another to buy certificate of deposits last year using the Federal Reserve Bank’s routing number and a fake checking account number, quickly liquidating the CDs and stashing the money in his USAA accounts. USAA allowed its members to make immediate withdrawals – before the transaction was approved and funded.
Beane used that glitch in the system to open $30 million in CDs and cash in roughly $2 million before USAA discovered the deceit, according to court records. He used some of the money to pay off debts and to buy a half-million-dollar motor home, prosecutors said.
FBI agents probing the case arrested Beane in July as he picked up his new prize at Buddy Gregg Motor Homes in Farragut. He'd just shared a post by Tucci-Jaraf on his Facebook page days earlier, bragging about his success.
"I just paid off all debts ... Ask me!" the post read.
Most of Wednesday's testimony consisted of jurors reviewing page after page of bank records and wire transfers from Beane's account, line by line and digit by digit.
Tucci-Jarraf was a licensed lawyer in Oregon who worked as a state prosecutor there before her involvement with the sovereign citizens movement. Prosecutors haven't said how she and Beane crossed paths.
Tucci-Jarraf was arrested outside the White House a few days after Beane's arrest, according to court testimony, after the FBI got a tip from the U.S. Secret Service that she was demanding a meeting with President Donald Trump.
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