After reading some books about banking, Denny Ray Hardin set up a website, created 2,000 fake promissory notes, and opened up "the Private Bank of Denny Ray Hardin" (not necessarily in that order) from his home in Kansas City. How entrepreneurial! And illegal.
On his website—sorry, the Private Bank's website—Hardin claimed that the notes, which he made on his home computer, were bonded and authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department. From September 2008 to September 2009 he sold more than $100 million of these things, reports the Kansas City Star.
In a March 2010 profile by the Kansas City alt-weekly The Pitch, Hardin comes off as a tragic and complicated character who has some altruistic motives but is also driven by extremist "don't tread on me" ideology. Fittingly, the article introduces him by way of a his many life troubles, which seem to have begun when he and his girlfriend were in a car accident, she lost her ability to work, and he was laid off from his construction job. "The one good thing we had was Betsy," he told The Pitch, referring to his beloved Corvette Stingray. But then a friend set him up in a small-time marijuana deal, and Hardin was arrested. The cops confiscated the Corvette, and Hardin was sentenced to jail time plus probation. Upon his release, he experienced this horror:
The next time Hardin saw Betsy, almost a year later, she had been painted up as an ad for the D.A.R.E. program.
Seriously, that's tragic.
Besides seeing his old hot rod being used to promote snitching on your parents, Hardin faced other troubles. His woman left him. He began smoking crack. His life essentially fell apart. Then he went to rehab and read about various subjects, including banking. He applied his knowledge and opened the Private Bank of Denny Ray Hardin, under this theory that we don't understand:
Hardin theorizes that it's possible to file a document that renounces one's U.S. citizenship and instead declares what he refers to as American citizenship. By doing this, the newly declared American citizen can take possession of an account that is supposedly set up by the feds on the occasion of every person's birth. Next, the American citizen can file a financial statement with the U.S. Secretary of State and copyright his or her name. The Americans Republic Party explains that with these three simple steps, it's possible to become a sovereign with the right to cash checks from one's established-at-birth account.
Hardin didn't really charge people much of a fee to his customers, whose mortgages he paid off using his special-issued Denny Ray bonds (for more on how this works, see this LA Times article). Like an official bank, he gave his customers information packets describing "all the steps he had taken, what laws he had to abide by, the ordinances that must be followed." And, as The Pitch notes, he was just one banker in a small yet diverse niche market; the Gadsden flag-flying Americans Republic Party, which has supported Hardin over the years, knows of other private banks operating right here in America.
On Wednesday, Hardin was found guilty in federal court on 11 counts of creating fictitious obligations and 10 counts of mail fraud, reports the Kansas City Business Journal; he now faces at least 20 years in prison. At the time of his indictment in May 2010, he was already incarcerated in state prison on a probation violation based on a 2006 incident in which he tried to arrest the lieutenant governor of Kansas for violating the Constitution. The government did not agree with Hardin about the lieutenant governor' behavior. Hardin and the government are rarely in agreement on the issues, it seems.
It's amazing that people would do business with a bank named after some random guy. Then again, people do business with all kinds of banks. At least this can be said about the now-shuttered Private Bank of Denny Ray Hardin: it was probably one of the only banks in Kansas City that was helping people to avoid foreclosure instead of making foreclosure more likely.