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Hardin, Montana update: AG launches probe

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 2, 2009 09:08 PM

The latest on what’s happening in Hardin, Montana: State Attorney General Steve Bullock has launched a probe into the jail deal with American Police Force and its shady founder:

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock launched an investigation Thursday into American Police Force, the California company founded by a Serbian immigrant with a lengthy criminal history that is seeking to run an empty, 464-bed jail in Hardin.

Bullock sent a nine-page demand letter late Thursday afternoon to Becky Shay, the spokeswoman for APF and the company’s only Montana employee.

Shay did not immediately respond to phone calls Thursday.

According to the document, Bullock is launching the civil investigation into APF over concerns that the company might be violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

Among other things, Bullock demanded that the company provide proof for many statements about the company included on APF’s Web site. The site says that the company frequently has contracts with the U.S. government and has operations in all 50 states.

Research into the company has turned up no record of APF contracting with the federal government. Bullock has requested that the company provide proof of its federal contracts and operations in other states.

Bullock also requested a copy of the contract between APF and Two Rivers Authority, the economic development arm of the city of Hardin, which built the jail two years ago.

The contract is reportedly a 10-year, multimillion-dollar deal with APF to run the jail.

Although Michael Hilton, the man behind APF, and local officials say the deal is as good as done, US Bank, the trustee for the bonds sold to build the jail, has never signed off on it.

People involved in the deal are jumping ship:

A California company’s bid to take over an empty jail in rural Montana appears to be unraveling, with an attorney involved in the project cutting ties Friday and a second company, once named as a subcontractor, denying any involvement.

Those moves followed revelations earlier in the week that Michael Hilton—the lead figure of the company, American Police Force—is a convicted felon with a history of fraud and failed business dealings in California.

“We met with him and he asked us if we can support him,” said Edward Angelino, chief executive of Allied Defense Systems, an Irvine, Calif.-based defense contractor. “We checked his background, we checked his company. He’s not an adequate person to do business with.”

Sunlight is always the best disinfectant.

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