The American Police Force, that mysterious security company that plans to take over an empty jail in Hardin, Montana, is looking shadier than ever.
Montana’s attorney general has launched an investigation into a California company’s plan to take over the city of Hardin’s $27 million jail, following revelations that the company’s lead figure is a convicted felon with a history of fraud.
Michael Hilton, who formed Santa Ana, Calif.-based American Police Force in March, came to Hardin last month promising to fill the city’s never-used jail and build an adjacent military and law enforcement training center.
Since yesterday, details have been emerging about the background of the man behind APF — a California-based grifter, who has said he’s a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Montenegro, and uses the name Michael Hilton.
Over the years, Hilton has served jail time for fraud, and had a string of arrests and other run-ins with the law. Based on reports from the AP, the Billings Gazette, and Prison Legal News, here’s a quick rundown:
• 1988: Hilton arrested in Santa Ana, Calif. for writing bad checks.
• April 1990: Hilton is again arrested in Santa Ana for writing bad checks and for grand theft.
• 1992: A civil judgment of $83,000 is entered against Hilton and Ilia Dokovich.
• March 1993: Hilton pleads guilty in Orange County court to 14 felonies, including 10 counts of grand theft. One charge involves a $20,000 real estate scam, in which Hilton persuaded an associate to give him a deed on property in Long Beach, Calif., saying it was to be used as collateral on a loan, then sold the property to someone else. According to the AP, he spends six years in prison in California.
• 1999: A small claims judgment is entered against Hilton for $3,979.
• 2000: the same plaintiff obtans another small claims judgment against Hilton in Los Angeles County, this one for $1,852.
• March 2000: Hilton is accused of fraud, larceny, and breach of contract, in connection to a venture in which Hilton and others recruited the plaintiff to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to create collectible Super Bowl commemorative coins. According to the complaint, Hilton and the others said the money would be used for the design and manufacture of the coins and for a license to produce them from the National Football League — but the NFL never issued a license. Hilton is ultimately ordered to pay the plaintiff $200,000.
• Around the same period: Hilton also faces two similar fraud suits: In one, he’s accused of posing as a fine arts dealer to deceive a Utah couple into giving him a $100,000 silver statue. In the other, he is said to have teamed with a doctor to recruit investors for a southern California assisted-living facility that was never built.
• November 2002: Hilton files for bankruptcy, in order to avoid eviction by his landlord.
• March 2003: Hilton is arrested for DUI in Huntington Beach.
• February 2004: Hilton files for bankruptcy once more, again to avoid eviction.
• January 2006: A $5,052 judgment lien is entered against Hilton in Orange County, CA.
A Lexis search conducted by Prison Legal News turned up the following aliases used by Hilton: Miodrag Dokovich, Miodrag Djokich, Miodrag Djokovich, Michael Hamilton, Anthony M. Hilton, Michael A. Hilton, Michael Milton and Hristian Djokich, plus related variants.