By Heidi Cenac
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Photo by Ken Ruinard
Left: Robert Clarkson of Anderson, an anti-tax guru, won his case with the FBI and they were ordered to return the 70 boxes of items they took from his house, including a frame which was on his diploma.
ANDERSON — Of all the reasons Robert Clarkson has to be upset with Federal Bureau of Investigation about, he talks the most about his law degree and $3,000 that went missing when agents searched his home in May.The FBI was ordered to return Mr. Clarkson's belongings in August. But as he dug through the 70 boxes taken from his house on Concord Avenue, Mr. Clarkson found an empty diploma frame and no money.
After suffering a severe head injury in the U.S. Army, Mr. Clarkson said he was told he wouldn't be able to do anything. The law degree was his proof that they were wrong.
“That law school diploma really meant a lot to me,” he said.
Neighbors suspected that the FBI's search was related to Mr. Clarkson's anti-tax activities. As president and founder of The Patriot Network, he believes that taxes are illegal. He used to offer classes on how to avoid paying taxes.
A federal court ordered Mr. Clarkson to abort his de-taxing efforts in July, even though he'd already stopped at that point, he said. These days, he said, he spends his time writing briefs and causing trouble. The latter causes him to sometimes call on “The Great One,” a sombrero- and cape-wearing alter ego that enjoys disrupting business at the Internal Revenue Service.
Mr. Clarkson thinks the FBI's recent search was an exercise in harassment. An FBI spokesman in Charlotte declined to comment for this story, saying it was the bureau's standard policy not to comment on investigations.
Mr. Clarkson said the FBI thought he was part of a group in Asheville scamming to undermine the Federal Reserve, an assumption based on the fact that he offers debt elimination services through his Web site and has strong ties to the Patriot Movement.
But the Patriot Movement is about as broad and disjointed as any grassroots effort.“Everybody's doing all kinds of things,” Mr. Clarkson said.
Agents took boxes of stationery, educational videos and Patriot Network brochures, even a few copies of the Declaration of Independence. But Mr. Clarkson said all the information they raided his house for was available on his Web site.With his belongings back in place — minus the diploma and cash — Mr. Clarkson's now thinking of selling the cardboard boxes they were returned in for $10 each. Each one is still wrapped in red Federal Bureau of Investigation tape with the word “Return” written across the top in black marker.
“Our people love that kind of thing,” Mr. Clarkson said.
There is one FBI souvenir that Mr. Clarkson has already gotten rid of: a laptop computer loaded with security-sensitive information that accidentally was included with the items he picked up at a division office in Charlotte.
He sent the laptop back when agents called looking for it, but the incident will give him and buddy Bob Fondry something to laugh about for a while.
“This is a comedy of errors,” Mr. Fondry said, still smiling at the thought of it.
Dr. Clarkson suggests you send your comments to the Anderson Independent Mail. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the article online.