The APPF Saga Continues…

Today’s Billings Gazette article reveals that Two Rivers Authority board members are beginning to question the wisdom of sealing the deal with Michael Hilton (aka ‘any one of the numerous aliases’).

On Monday, when Two Rivers Authority, the city’s economic development arm that built the jail, met to discuss possible changes in its proposed contract with APF, board president Gary Arneson said APF needs to replace Hilton as a representative to Hardin.

No kidding! But ‘Hilton’ is not just the ‘representative’; he’s the man who incorporated APPF. He IS APPF. You can’t have one without the other.

“I agree,” said Mayor Ron Adams, standing in the audience. “He has no credibility in this community at all.”

Gee, ya’ think?

After a short discussion of the contract, the board was about to move on to another subject when board member Robert Crane asked to speak.

“It just seems like it’s one thing after another, and there’s too many red flags coming up,” Crane said.

Good for Robert Crane (not the same Bob Crane who played Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes of course, although this entire story is playing out like one of Hogan’s schemes to counter Klink and the Germans). Hardin’s Robert Crane is using his head, and he’s been doing a little digging.

You see, ‘Captain’ Michael Hilton had assured TRA board members that their empty detention center would be in experienced hands, although the Detention Chief’s identity could not be revealed–yet. Hilton said ‘people would be shocked’ when they learned the identity of the ‘high caliber’ gentleman who would be running the facility. As it turns out, that ‘high caliber’ gentleman was also shocked.

Crane identified the so-called director on Monday as Mike Cohen, vice president of International Security Associates in Dublin, Ohio. Crane said he spoke with Cohen last week and was told he had no association with Hilton or APF.

Reached by phone later Monday, Cohen said he does have extensive experience in overseas security training and had recently returned from Iraq when he came across the APF Web site early in September. Interested in various opportunities listed there, he sent in his resume and an application.

He said Hilton called him soon after that and talked about various jobs, but refused to divulge any details unless they met in person in California or Montana.

“I just didn’t feel right about the conversation,” Cohen said, so he e-mailed Hilton the next day and said he needed answers to specific questions before pursuing the job any further.

The name of Mike Cohen is a new one in this continuing saga, and I’m betting Cohen wishes he’d never read the job posting at the APPF website. To make sure to get my facts straight for this article, I sent an email to Mr. Cohen and asked for his side of the story. He replied promptly and professionally with the following statement:

Dear Ms. Gilbert,

Reference is made to your below email concerning American Private Police Force and its dealings in Hardin, Montana.

I have no additional information I can add to what I have already provided Mr. Bob Crane last week or the three reporters who called me yesterday:

  1. Neither I nor International Security Associates, Inc. is in any way affiliated with Michael Hilton or American Police Force.
  2. I have no prior knowledge of Michael Hilton or American Police Force, nor have I ever met a Michael Hilton.
  3. I have never met with Michael Hilton to discuss any positions with American Police Force.
  4. Approximately one month ago I sent my resume to American Police Force in search of a contract instructor position for an international training project as advertised on their web site.
  5. An unknown person called me and identified himself as Michael Hilton from American Police Force and immediately began making request that I travel to either California or Montana to discuss an opportunity with his company.
  6. Mr. Hilton never provided me specific information concerning the job that he was considering me for.
  7. Mr. Hilton never offered me a position with American Police Force.
  8. I have never worked in any capacity for Michael Hilton, American Police Force or any of its affiliates, nor do I intend to.

I hope this helps you.  I have nothing else to add.

Kind regards,
Michael Cohen

It looks as though Mr. Cohen is as baffled as we are. Several questions remain: Why would ‘Captain’ Michael Hilton make a false claim about his company’s relationship with Mike Cohen, when verification of said ‘claim’ is but an email away?  Why didn’t Becky Shay, a seasoned reporter who formerly worked for The Billings Gazette, perform due diligence by checking into Hilton’s claims? What does Hilton have to gain by seeding money and lies around Hardin? More importantly, after revelations about ‘Hilton’s’ shady past and apparent falsehoods, why would anyone on the TRA board entertain the idea of moving forward with the contract?

For the sake of the people of Hardin, Montana, let’s pray the board wakes up soon.

For more on this story, read Bob van der Valk’s series.

1 Comment

  1. Bob Crane has been on the TRA board for some time, has he not? I don’t give him a lot of credit for waking up at this late hour. Others, such as Larry Vandersloot, have been on it for many years and are only beginning to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Becky Shay “outed” Cohen as an ex-offender, which she got by a bit of sleuthing atypical for her. She actually looked at his job application where he admitted his past and she released it out of spite.

    Corplan Corrections
    By Katie Ussin
    Oct 9, 2009

    HARDIN – In June of 2006 Two Rivers Authority began constructing the 464-bed detention facility in Hardin.

    James Parkey, who is the president of Corplan Corrections in Argyle, Texas is the jail’s architect.

    KULR-8 spoke with Juan Guerra who is the former district attorney for Willacy County, Texas.

    Guerra said he investigated Corplan in 2001 and 2002 on possible corruption in connection with a private prison being constructed in that county.

    Guerra said his investigation resulted in the convictions of four people; the county auditor, two commissioners, and a man Guerra said was a consultant for Corplan who Guerra said plead guilty to giving the commissioners money so that they would award the contract to build the jail to Corplan.

    Parkey was not charged with any wrongdoing in the case, but Guerra has a strong opinion about his business.

    “He puts packages together and goes around to different areas across the country. He used to only be in Texas, now they are all over the country, using the same routine. What they do is promise all sorts of things. There are millions of dollars in bonds, revenue bonds and then they go into default. They make their money upfront and within a month they are out of there. They’re not there to make sure this thing runs,” said Guerra.

    Parkey was seen touring the Hardin facility last month when Two Rivers Authority was in contract talks to lease the jail to the California-based firm American Private Police Force, or APF.

    Al Peterson, TRA vice president, said Parkey was in Hardin strictly because of his intimate knowledge of the facility.

    Parkey was said to be present at a meeting between TRA and APF in early September in California.

    When KULR-8 called Parkey at his home/business office in Argyle,Texas to find out what if any his current involvement is with the Hardin Jail and to discuss Guerra’s claims we were told that he was on a trip for two weeks.

    Officials with a Corplan constructed jail in Bailey County Texas said it took them a year to get prisoners, but they are happy with the facility. Juan Guerra is now in private practice in Texas with a focus on private prisons.

    He said it is a multi-billion dollar industry riddled with problems.

    Two Rivers and CiviGenics contracted to operate the jail in the beginning. Community Education Centers, Inc. aquired CiviGenics in June of 2007. Peter Argeropulos, senior vice president for business development could not be reached for comment on the issue involving the Hardin Jail. KULR-8 was told he was on vacation. However, a spokesperson for CEC said the company currently has no involvement with the facility.

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