Officials think tax evaders' properties will finally sell

AP News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2015 7:27 PM
Officials think tax evaders' properties will finally sell

PLAINFIELD, N.H. (AP) — Officials are confident they can finally unload two properties formerly owned by a now-jailed pair of tax evaders, including the compound where they kept federal agents at bay during a monthslong armed standoff, despite lingering concerns the place is booby-trapped.

An auction last year for Ed and Elaine Brown's properties drew no bidders, but much has changed ahead of this year's attempt, set for Thursday at the federal courthouse in Concord.

The minimum bids on both properties — $125,000 for the 100-acre compound in Plainfield and $250,000 for Elaine Brown's dentist office in Lebanon — are half what they were. Winning bidders have 45 days — not seven — to come up with the balance. Bidders must present a bank-certified check for $25,000, not $50,000, and qualified bidders can visit the compound for the first time — even with persistent worries it could still have hidden explosives.

"The terms are a lot more attractive this time around," said deputy U.S. Marshal Brenda Mikelson, who conducted last year's auction in a courtroom full of empty chairs. "It's a lot more reasonable for your average joe."

The Property Appraisal and Liquidation Specialists division of the Internal Revenue Service will conduct Thursday's auction, which will be run by auctioneer Roger Sweeney. Both properties are prominently displayed, including several photos, on the website www.irsauctions.gov .

"Roger's pretty confident that both properties are going this time, and not just for their minimum bids," Mikelson said.

The Browns are now in their 70s. They were sentenced to five years in prison for tax evasion and staged a nine-month standoff in 2007 with U.S. marshals who came to take them into custody.

They were convicted in 2009 of amassing weapons, explosives and booby traps and plotting to kill federal agents who came to arrest them. In 2014, federal agencies couldn't ensure the entire parcel was free of booby traps. But the hilltop house and the grounds up to the tree line have been searched extensively and have deemed free of improvised explosive devices and other booby traps.

The Browns are serving prison sentences of more than 30 years. The properties were seized and a federal judge ordered them auctioned to pay back property taxes owed to Plainfield and Lebanon.

Plainfield Town Manager Steve Halleran, whose community of 2,400 residents is owed nearly $224,000 in back taxes dating back to 2007, is also optimistic the compound will sell this time around.

"The interest is so much higher. The attention they've put into the auction is so much greater," Halleran said. "People with resources are looking. It's not just homesteaders looking for a place to grow pot."

"It's going to sell," Halleran declared.

Attorney Shawn Tanguay, who represents Lebanon, said the city is anxious to recover at least some of the $328,000 owed in back taxes and get the property back on the tax rolls.