William Raby, a retired Arizona State University business professor and publisher of the Raby Report, a tax-advice newsletter, notes that the trusts are of no use to the average American.
"You can't just put your local salary, or your house or VCR, into one of the trusts," Raby says.
But Ellena, playing the semantic game that is at the core of the Constitutionalist ethos, insists that you can. Any argument to the contrary, put forth by the IRS or an establishmentarian tax expert, is merely part of the "cognitive dissonance" of the "conspiracy."
Which is why, when he was looking for noneducational work in the summer of 1992, Ellena eagerly took a job with a Tempe company that specialized in moving assets into trusts located in the Caribbean.
@body:That July, Ellena began working as a "recovery agent" for a Tempe insurance broker and fellow Constitutionalist named Doug Carpa. A mysterious character who is now in federal prison in California on unrelated tax-fraud and conspiracy convictions, Carpa had set up a Phoenix resident named Brett Harris with an offshore account named "LAJ Trust"--with headquarters in the Grand Turk Islands, part of the British West Indies.
The IRS, however, was not willing to accept the trust, since Harris' meager assets were all earned within the U.S. So it set out to seize and sell some of his property--including a 1967 Ford pickup truck--to cover the tax bill.
The truck was scheduled to be sold July 21 as part of a Phoenix auction of other seized vehicles. Carpa dispatched Ellena to the auction bearing a homemade "seizure order" which had been generated on Carpa's home computer.
The order, which accused the IRS of "deceptive use of color of office, fractious and unlawful conduct contrary to the protection of the public good," demanded that the truck be returned. Ellena also carried the truck's title, which showed that it was registered to LAJ Trust.
"It was a legal challenge," Ellena explains, "putting them on notice that we were contesting the sale."
When he got to the auction, Ellena presented the order to IRS agent Raymond Banks, who informed Ellena that he would not return the truck.
According to court records, the short-tempered Ellena erupted, yelling at Banks for 15 minutes, insisting that the seizure of the vehicle was illegal and that the IRS was a "Gestapo-type" organization that would be destroyed as soon as the American people awoke to its fraud.
Ellena then announced that he wanted to sit in the vehicle, like other people who were milling about the auction lot inspecting vehicles.
"I had keys," Ellena admits, "and I could have easily driven it away if I had wanted to. But I didn't."
The reports of the IRS agents on the scene confirm that Ellena made no effort to take the truck from the lot. He merely sat in the cab for a minute, inspecting the condition of the truck.
But suddenly, perhaps annoyed that Ellena was blocking potential buyers from inspecting it, Banks and IRS Special Agent John Nielsen moved into the cab and grabbed Ellena.
"They wanted me out of the truck, and they began pulling on my legs, wrenching my back," Ellena says. "At which point I yelled that I was being assaulted."
The agents, noting the crowd that was gathering, no doubt attracted by Ellena's bellowing, retreated and radioed the Phoenix police.
The officers who responded to the call asked to see Ellena's ID and ordered him out of the truck. He complied, and was arrested for failure to pay an outstanding traffic ticket.
At the police station, the officers quickly discovered that the traffic citation was an error and released Ellena.
Had he gone home peaceably at this point, that might have been that--just another meaningless skirmish in the Constitutionalist war on the system.
But Ellena raised the stakes, filing assault charges against the two IRS agents with Phoenix police.
"They had roughed me up," Ellena says, "and I hadn't done anything that I did not have a legal right to do."
The IRS knew Ellena had not broken any laws by sitting in the truck; nor had he physically tried to seize it. He had not initiated any physical contact with agents, and he had not stopped the auction--the truck was sold for $600 the same day.
He wasn't a tax evader himself--Ellena hadn't made enough money that year to owe any federal income tax.
In short, he hadn't done anything wrong. If he had, federal officers had an easy opportunity to arrest him at the scene. Yet according to reports filed by the IRS' own agents, they had no reason to do so.