HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A woman accused of operating a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme says the federal courts don't have jurisdiction over her.
Jennifer Ann McTigue, a 46-year-old Punahou School graduate, said the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom more than a century ago was illegal and because of that the mail fraud and money laundering charges against her are invalid.
Others accused of running mortgage scams have offered similar defenses. But even McTigue's alleged co-conspirators aren't buying her arguments.
"The motions she filed are completely ridiculous and we refuse to join in it and the court is now questioning her competence to represent herself," said Victor Bakke, attorney for co-defendant Marc Melton.
McTigue, Melton and Sakara Blackwell are accused of acquiring properties from distressed homeowners and falsifying agreements with them to appear as if their loans had been paid off. Prosecutors say McTigue and two others then sold the properties, raking in more than $3 million. Blackwell is in the process of finalizing a plea deal. On Thursday. U.S. District Judge Helen Gilmor issued a bench warrant for Melton's arrest for not appearing in court.
In her court documents, McTigue calls the U.S. District Court "a privately owned state trading company masquerading as a court" and that the federal government is a "fictitious plaintiff" that is "civilly dead and whose property is administered as a trust-fund for the benefit of its stockholders and creditors."
McTigue is representing herself in the case.
Her bizarre filings have prompted federal prosecutors to question McTigue's competency to stand trial and to mount a competent defense.
"These articulated positions from McTigue, who styles herself, 'infant decedent defendant,' have raised substantial red flags as this case nears trial," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson.
"Since McTigue does not recognize the validity, existence or the jurisdiction of the United States District Court, there is substantial question as to whether she will follow and respect this Court's orders and courtroom management."
McTigue is just the latest sovereignty advocate to claim the federal courts have no validity.
Mahealani Ventura Oliver was found guilty last year of tricking distressed homeowners into paying for bogus bonds to stave off foreclosure.
Alan Murakami, litigation director for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, said courts have repeatedly shot down that sovereignty defense, adding that many homeowners who bought into the argument have been hurt.
"It puts (distressed homeowners) in a very dire situation especially if they had not been paying during the pendency of their lawsuit," Murakami said.
"It confounds the very legitimate concerns Hawaiian have on self-determination."