I came across this report of some strange happenings in Hardin, Montana. To me it looks like a shady outfit is trying to take advantage of a situation and hopes to land a lucrative government contract, but I've been wrong before.
BILLINGS - The Two Rivers Detention Center was promoted as the largest economic development project in decades in the small town of Hardin when the jail was built two years ago. But it has been vacant ever since.
City officials have searched from Vermont to Alaska for inmate contracts to fill the jail, only to be turned down at every turn and see the bonds that financed its construction fall into default. They even floated the idea of housing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay at the jail.
So when Hardin officials announced this week that they had signed a deal with a California company to fill the empty jail, it was naturally a cause for celebration. Town officials talked about throwing a party to mark the occasion, their dreams of economic salvation a step closer to being realized.
But questions are emerging over the legitimacy of the company, American Police Force.
Government contract databases show no record of the company. Security industry representatives and federal officials said they had never heard of it. On its Web site, the company lists as its headquarters a building in Washington near the White House that holds "virtual offices." A spokeswoman for the building said American Police Force never completed its application to use the address.
And here's more.
BILLINGS - Public records available from state and federal courts and from Web site registrations have raised new questions about a company contracted to operate a detention facility in Hardin, as well as a potential supplier of police equipment to the venture.
Local officials have released almost no details on American Police Force, and company representatives have been tight-lipped, leaving everyone from Hardin residents to a New Zealand blogger turning to the Internet for answers.
Separate research efforts by The Billings Gazette and others turned up connections and similarities between the APF Web site and sites for other little-known defense procurement companies.
All of the Web sites share similarities in design, and some include exactly the same phrases, which was a red flag to Kevin Flaherty, an American blogger living in New Zealand who writes about private military contractors.
Flaherty, owner of the Cryptogon blog, said that plans by APF to provide Hardin with a homeless shelter, computers for schools, free meals for the needy and an animal shelter "read like something out of The Onion," a satirical newspaper.
Flaherty said his online research revealed "a lot of weirdness to chase down."
Public records show that the APF Web site, americanpolicegroup.com, was first registered on May 15, about two weeks after an effort by the Two Rivers Authority to pursue prisoners from Guantanamo Bay made national headlines.
And to cap it off, it turns out Barack Obama is manning one of his many secret FEMA concentration camps with his Nazi SS Storm Battalion. (Make sure you have the comments on.)