One of the abiding mysteries of the American Private Police Force story is who, if anyone, provided the financial backing the private security company claims to have.
As the project unravels and more of APPF’s claims are shown to be dubious, it seems like the key question is not who the parent company is, but: does it actually exist?Back in early September, after the initial deal was brokered between Hardin, MT, and APPF — worth over $2 million per year for the town — the AP profiled the company. It was incorporated earlier this year in California right after Hardin was in the news for offering its empty jail up for Guantanamo inmates.
Here’s what APPF’s now ex-lawyer, Maziar Mafi, told the AP about the company’s background:
An attorney for American Police Force, Maziar Mafi, describes the Santa Ana, Calif., company as a fledgling spin-off of a major security firm founded in 1984. But Mafi declined to name the parent firm or provide details on how the company will finance its jail operations.
“It will gradually be more clear as things go along,” said Mafi, a personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer in Santa Ana who was only hired by American Police Force a month ago. “The nature of this entity is private security and for security purposes, as well as for the interest of their clientele, that’s why they prefer not to be upfront.” …
[Michael Hilton] said his boss is a retired U.S. Army colonel named Richard Culver who is currently overseas.
And Becky Shay, too, the Billings Gazette reporter turned APPF spokeswoman, seemed confident that firm’s backers had deep pockets. When she signed on, she said she got a $60,000 salary, a signing bonus, a company car, and was promised help on a down payment on a new house.
“She said she vetted the company and was told things they will not tell the media,” KULR reported.
Asked by TPMmuckraker today if she had been told the identity of the parent company, Shay wouldn’t say. But she remains “very comfortable” that APPF’s backers are legitimate, she said.
Through the last month of intense media coverage, Shay and APPF have refused to answer repeated inquires about the company’s putative financial backers.
Some Internet chatterers proposed that the parent company was Xe/Blackwater, or International SOS, or GEO Group. Each of those companies has denied to TPMmuckraker any affiliation with APPF.
A California-based security company called Applied Signal Technology was founded in 1984 and employs an Air Force (not Army) veteran named Rich Culver. But responding to inquires from TPMmuckraker, two company officials denied any affiliation to APPF.
It should be noted that APPF official Michael Hilton has a pattern of claiming that companies he has had perfunctory contact with are playing big roles in APPF.
As for APPF’s financial status, it emerged that the purchase of two of APPF’s three Mercedes SUVs was guaranteed by its ex-lawyer, Mafi. And payments on one of the vehicles was late, as of last week. APPF has also done unspecified work on the physical plant of the jail.
Al Peterson of the Hardin economic development agency, which brokered the deal with APPF, said today that, on a trip to California, he had seen documents showing that APPF was working with a major contractor. But citing new doubts about APPF’s cover story, he declined to name the firm, lest it be unfairly tarred by association.
Additional reporting by Zachary Roth.