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"What have we got to lose?"
October 1, 2009 11:03 PM   Subscribe

We welcome anyone to visit our town! There are no commandos in the streets. There is no fence or gate being built around Hardin. People are free to come and go as they please. APF is not running our town or our police force.

Detailed discussion of the nature of this company starts here.
posted by mek (128 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
We are free! We are free!
posted by Artw at 11:07 PM on October 1, 2009


So, this is for a movie, right?
posted by gc at 11:11 PM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition Austro-Hungarian Empire!
posted by scody at 11:12 PM on October 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


At least the guy who runs APF isn't sketchy at all.

And at least their website isn't deeply weird and creepy. (screenshots from the APF site)
posted by dersins at 11:13 PM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Um, that dude has a sword.
posted by Artw at 11:18 PM on October 1, 2009


Clicking around I came up to this page about the detention facility. As the page was loading, the alternate text for one of their images jumped up. It's "GITMO". If this is some kind of viral or parody, I applaud their attention to detail .
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:20 PM on October 1, 2009


Sounds a lot like an episode of Jericho.
posted by signalnine at 11:20 PM on October 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've seen this mentioned a few places, and I'm pretty sure it's a scam of some kind. It's too perfectly aimed at the latent tinfoil-hatter in all of us.
posted by Malor at 11:24 PM on October 1, 2009


Hmm, I left some words out there.... "scam or a hoax". I think the chance of Hardin actually ending up with a jail run by these guys is just about zero.
posted by Malor at 11:26 PM on October 1, 2009


I was just thinking about that, signalnine.

So we now live in an age in the US when "corporate personhood" and the 2nd Amendment extends its umbrella of civil protection over shadowy, heavily armed mercenary forces setting up shop with impunity, as long as they can pay the rent.

Well, that's just spiffy.

Somehow, I don't think the Founding Fathers would have tolerated this shit in their newly won country.
posted by darkstar at 11:27 PM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unless it is a hoax. In which case I'm pretty sure that the hoaxer would have at least gotten a good pantsing by John Adams.
posted by darkstar at 11:29 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


OMFG the American Police Force homepage has fucking midi tunes.
posted by Artw at 11:30 PM on October 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


LOL MONTANA
posted by bardic at 11:30 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It may be a scam, but it is not a hoax. The Montana AG has launched an investigation, so things are pretty serious. A deal is/was supposed to be signed tomorrow.
posted by mek at 11:31 PM on October 1, 2009


So is this a 'well regulated militia'?
posted by pompomtom at 11:35 PM on October 1, 2009


what? the? fuck?
posted by sexyrobot at 11:46 PM on October 1, 2009


Metafilter: We are NOT a Mercenary Army.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:49 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Speak for yourself.
posted by pompomtom at 11:51 PM on October 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bagsie being the tough cockney one, possibly with a sawn-off shootah as my signature weapon.

Who's going to be knife guy?
posted by Artw at 11:53 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just don't be puttin' me on no damn plane.
posted by pompomtom at 11:56 PM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


We need a sniper, and an explosives dude.
posted by Artw at 11:57 PM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have a frisbee.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:59 PM on October 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nothing is wrong here. Nothing is amiss. Nothing strange is going on. Everyone return to your homes.



Now.
posted by Avenger at 12:07 AM on October 2, 2009


This is the gift that keeps on giving. There's so many aspects of it that are all so very very wrong. The website's a disaster (Kidnappings! Ransoms! WMDs! Cheating spouses!), the owners are ex-cons, the head of PR was hired away from being a reporter for a local paper doing an investigative series on them, there's the whole matter of what they plan to do with an empty prison in a town without a police force. Break out the popcorn, this is sure to end very very badly. I'm glad it got posted; I tried doing it yesterday but got bogged down in trying not to miss any angles.
posted by scalefree at 12:12 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey! They have a polyfucking hell is that thing?!
posted by dirigibleman at 12:12 AM on October 2, 2009 [21 favorites]


We welcome anyone to visit our town, but nigger, don't let the sun set on you here.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:18 AM on October 2, 2009


Also, as someone pointed out on the TPM comments section, the APF logo contains four cyrillic "C"'s, which stands for "Only Unity Saves The Serbs" in Serbian. That, and it appears to be a Serbian crest.

Such a fucking weird situation.
posted by Avenger at 12:19 AM on October 2, 2009


From zooming in on the signage it appears that whatever it is you shouldn't jump horses over it... Other than that I'm not sure - did they put Han Solo in it near the end of Empire?
posted by Artw at 12:19 AM on October 2, 2009


Well, I kind of gather that the main mechanism of operation for a polygraph is it intimidates the subject— and that is a pretty intimidating looking machine… wonder if it has anything inside the case?
posted by hattifattener at 12:24 AM on October 2, 2009


Hey! They have a polyfucking hell is that thing?!

I guess it could be an x-ray machine, a high-speed commercial printer or an injection molding machine. It's not a polygraph machine, that is for damn sure.
posted by Avenger at 12:24 AM on October 2, 2009


I bet it's hooked up to this.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:27 AM on October 2, 2009


Polygraph machine, CNC lathe, what's the difference?
posted by Artw at 12:27 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


interdicting weapons of mass destruction....cheating spouse investigations
Similar skill set, just a slight difference in what's at stake if you fuck up.
posted by Abiezer at 12:28 AM on October 2, 2009


I guess it could be an x-ray machine, a high-speed commercial printer or an injection molding machine.

I think that's the machine that Ozymandias tried to fuck up Dr. Manhattan with.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:28 AM on October 2, 2009 [18 favorites]


So we are agreed that whatever the fuck it is our goal as a crack elite mercenary army should be to attempt to capture it?
posted by Artw at 12:31 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought Nine Inch Nails was all over.
posted by GuyZero at 12:31 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


ArtW, if you still have room on your team, I can be the dude who poses all tough and shit while showing my crotch off. As long as you supply the CGI Helicopters to pose in front off.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:31 AM on October 2, 2009


Offset printing press.
posted by Lazlo at 12:33 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll do it if you promise me a CGI-enhanced crotch.
posted by rokusan at 12:35 AM on October 2, 2009


Visitors to APF's Blackwater-esque Web site listen to Ravel's Boléro and peruse a menu of services that include: harbor patrol threat interdiction, interdicting terror activity, interdicting weapons of mass destruction, international airline security, cheating spouse investigations, polygraph testing, kidnapping response, weapons sales including "Nuclear/Biological/Chemical (WMD),"

Really? They're selling nuclear weapons? Great, because I have some kids that just won't get off of my lawn.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:41 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think P.o.B. nailed it. If a giant tentacled horror teleports into Hardin and half its populace goes insane, we know who to blame.

Someone should call APF up and ask for a price list on those nuclear/biological/chemical weapons they sell. Maybe if you buy a dozen tritium initiators they'll toss in a cheating-spouse investigation for free!
posted by hattifattener at 12:53 AM on October 2, 2009


Who wants to bet the website is by the nephew of the owner?
posted by floam at 12:54 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, back at The Base...

Beer drinking and High-Fives are happening as a cheerful our elite commando team celebrates.

Knife Guy: We got it! We got that machine! I'm glad I brought my knife.
Knife Guy smirks, and twirls a large Bowie knife as if he's a drummer for an 80's big hair band.

Sniper: Rock on fellas!
Sniper flexes bulging bicep while giving a thumbs up

Explosives Dude: Yep, and we all did our part.
Gulps beer, belches.

dirigibleman: Did you see me throw my frisbee at that one guy?
Everybody groans then a hearty laughfest happens

ArtW, rubbing a corner of the machine with his sleeve so as it gives a nice shine in the light, Lazlo walks up to it, adjusts his spectacles...

Lazlo: Heeeeyyyy, this is an Offset Printing Press!

Everyone is wide eyed, then break into hysterical laughter.

Cue Elite Force Crack Commandos theme.

posted by P.o.B. at 12:54 AM on October 2, 2009 [34 favorites]


You forgot that it ends on a freeze-frame!
posted by Lazlo at 12:59 AM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I missed a few good details. I had a whole subplot idea where Crotch-Shot Guy was the key Commando of the whole operation, and at one point the CGI Helicopter crash landed. Also, Crotch-Shot Guy is a double entendre.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:13 AM on October 2, 2009


What the citizens of Hardin really need are Cheat Commandos.
posted by bardic at 1:25 AM on October 2, 2009


CGI Helicopter is also a double entendre.
posted by ryanrs at 1:30 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this the first stage of the coup d'etat the republicans have a rager over?
posted by maxwelton at 2:02 AM on October 2, 2009


So which video game or action movie hero will have to sneak into the town and singlehandedly bring them down?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:24 AM on October 2, 2009


Honestly, what this looks like to me right now is that this Michael Hilton dude is a shady dealer who didn't really expect this particular con to get so much attention. Is there anything yet that indicates that this isn't sort of a "phantom" mercenary company? Hardin's in a bad way financially, and then they hear from this guy with a website who claims to run a mercenary org. He claims he wants to give them money, they're desperate for money, and so it goes.

The whole thing smells of a con job that's got out of hand.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:30 AM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


A highly-qualified professor demonstrates that advanced polygraph machine here.
posted by rokusan at 3:09 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Reminds me of the egos that circulated during the dot com run up who were sniffing around other people's money.

Lots of claims about what they were going to do and every so often someone would sign this or that contract, then they'd run about talking about how they were to ligit to quit.

If anything this case is looking like a show pony to trot about on why openness works. Just imagine the bodies one could find buried if the government/large corporations were as open.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:15 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, rough ashlar, I usually say this out loud when you post, but what the fuck are you talking about?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 AM on October 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


A town tried to make a buck off the American prison boom, but their "build it and they will come" business plan didn't work and they lost their shirt, so they are trying to lease or sell the prison to a private corporation that hopes to make a buck off the same boom by selling training services to other private prisons and perhaps foreign governments. Something like that?

Who would have expected something like this to happen in a system whose goal is profit, not justice?
posted by pracowity at 3:37 AM on October 2, 2009


I really need to know how covert pregnancy testing works.
posted by dortmunder at 3:42 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean, specifically, does covert pregnancy testing involve an offset printing press?
posted by dortmunder at 3:43 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seriously though, isn't this outfit closer to the intention of the second amendment than, say, random bloke buying automatic weapons for fun?
posted by pompomtom at 4:10 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I can hear in my head is "America Fuck Yeah" from Team America.

I guess it beats the James Bond theme.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:31 AM on October 2, 2009


I went back to the kitchen, opened the top of the refrigerator, and attacked the ice with an ice pick that had a six-inch awl-sharp blade set in a round blue and white handle. The girl stood in the doorway and asked questions. I didn't answer them while I put ice, gin, lemon juice and seltzer together in two glasses.

“What have you been doing?” she demanded as we carried our drinks into the dining room. “You look ghastly.”

“This damned burg's getting to me. If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood-simple like the natives. There's been what? A dozen and a half murders since I've been here. Donald Willson; Ike Bush; the four wops and the dick at Cedar Hill; Jerry; Lew Yard; Dutch Jake; Blackie Whalen and Put Collings at the Silver Arrow; Big Nick; the copper I potted; the blond kid Whisper dropped here; Yakima Shorty, old Elihu's prowler; and now Noonan. That's sixteen of them in less than a week, and more coming up.”

She frowned at me and said sharply:
“Don't look like that.”

I laughed and went on:
“I've arranged a killing or two in my time, when they were necessary. But this is the first time I've ever got the fever. It's this damned burg. You can't go straight here. I got myself tangled at the beginning...”
Red Harvest, page 154; Dashiell Hammett, 1929

posted by koeselitz at 4:53 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


So...A private, for-profit police force? Being a private corporation, just how much of the Constitution can they ignore when enforcing justice?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:59 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love this story!
posted by diogenes at 5:16 AM on October 2, 2009


TPM talked to someone on the Hardin development team, and they said that yes, they were aware that the owner of APF had a criminal past, but he was drunk when he did those things. He doesn't drink anymore, so everything is cool!
posted by diogenes at 5:19 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You guys just hate anything with the word "America" in it.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:30 AM on October 2, 2009


I guess it beats the James Bond theme.
posted by fourcheesemac


The hell it does! The James Bond theme rules, it has a couple of free-jazz sections that you'd never expect.
posted by COBRA! at 5:31 AM on October 2, 2009


>: but he was drunk when he did those things. He doesn't drink anymore, so everything is cool!

We sure as hell haven't heard that one before.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:59 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey I'm not worried UNATCO will send in JC Denton to investigate. I'm sure it will be fine.
posted by khaibit at 6:21 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pope Guilty: You know, rough ashlar, I usually say this out loud when you post, but what the fuck are you talking about?

Show ponies, Pope. Show ponies.
posted by koeselitz at 6:24 AM on October 2, 2009


Have you *seen* the trail of exploded body-parts JC Denton leaves behind?

...oh wait, that's just me.
posted by Artw at 6:41 AM on October 2, 2009


Movin' to Montana soon
Gonna be a dental floss private army leadin', prison ownin', Serbian flag wavin' tycoon...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:46 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Come on, you know you'd love to go through there and 'tantalus' all those guys.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:46 AM on October 2, 2009


"Some of our services include Kidknapping & Ransoms for ransom"

Excellent. Some of our services include spelling and redundancy checks.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:53 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is just a promo for Grant Theft Auto 7, right? The cheat code for that Annihilator everyone knows. The cheat code for the salami in that guy's pants, though....not sure.
posted by spicynuts at 6:55 AM on October 2, 2009


I really need to know how covert pregnancy testing works.

'No dear don't flush the toilet... there's a problem. There's a man from American Po-sorry Plumbing Force here to fix it. Yes, it is an unusual uniform for a plumber...'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:58 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey! They have a polyfucking hell is that thing?!

My first thought was the WOPR

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:01 AM on October 2, 2009


Honestly, what this looks like to me right now is that this Michael Hilton dude is a shady dealer who didn't really expect this particular con to get so much attention.

The name "Michael Hilton" is where it all breaks down. If you're going to create a Balkan-inspired paramilitary force-for-hire, your Montenegro-born CEO can't have an anglicized name. He needs to stick with whatever the original was; something like Victor Karakostivich, who we could imagine appearing in a bond film. On the other hand, if it turns out that Arkan wasn't really assassinated and has re-emerged as "Michael Hilton," then it's ok.*

*I apologize to all my Serbian friends for having fun at your expense. I mean it in love.
posted by deanc at 7:04 AM on October 2, 2009


So, this is the Initiative, right?
posted by oinopaponton at 7:09 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You'll be glad they're available when the leaderless Prawns show up in their busted-ass spaceship.
posted by Scoo at 7:18 AM on October 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


We are not a limousine service or a cab service

OK, Good to know!

You might even be living with one [criminal], this day in age people can't lie about the past[...]

We also provide a service to catching spouses including dna investigations with body fluid, semen testing, and hair follicles.

Married husbands and wives will typically call untrustworthy loved ones adultery and infidelity.


I can believe that Serbians wrote this; native English speakers, not so much.


From the weapons page: IT systems (computers, laptops, fax machines, copiers, scanners, cartridges, scanners [sic], printers, etc).

Let's see...I'll take a biological WMD, a passenger bus, a hazmat suite, and a couple of ink cartridges. Do you take American Express?

Looking for a childhood friend?
Yikes! How would you like a knock on the door from these guys? " Billy 'Booger' Jenkins from 3rd grade sends his regards and wants you to get in touch. He still has your Stretch Armstrong."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:41 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really need to know how covert pregnancy testing works.

Good News! You may have already won the Urine Sweepstakes! Just pee on this stick to see if you have won $5.00, $50.00, or $5 Million dollars.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:45 AM on October 2, 2009


it appears to be a Serbian crest

Not a Serbian crest, the Serbian crest.
posted by gubo at 7:56 AM on October 2, 2009


I'll take a biological WMD, a passenger bus, a hazmat suite....

The honeymoon hazmat suite, if you don't mind.

(It's our anniversary.)
posted by rokusan at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2009


Secret Life of Gravy: I can believe that Serbians wrote this; native English speakers, not so much.

I know you're kidding, but this text reminds me of countless small businesses I've worked with as a freelance writer.

"This writing needs to be more formal!" they always say. "It's too conversational!"

"Well, that is pretty formal," I tell them. "It's very mature and direct."

"But it has contractions!" they always reply. "How can it be formal if it has contractions? I always learned in high school that formal writing never has contractions!"

At this point in the conversation, I usually pinch the bridge of my nose.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:19 AM on October 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


I really need to know how covert pregnancy testing works.

Probably involves breaking and entering, installing some kind of fluid capture device on the target's primary house toilet, a second breaking and entering to retrieve the device, and then the usual testing procedures.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or womb darts.
posted by Artw at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Needs more mecha.
posted by ryoshu at 8:33 AM on October 2, 2009


I'm beginning to suspect that Bruce Sterling made the whole thing up.
posted by Artw at 8:44 AM on October 2, 2009


I take it back, I'm going with the con job explanation. My theory now is that someone got ordered to come up with an impressive web site in 24 hours with "lots of words and stuff." The designer had spell check but wasn't strong on catching redundancies, poor punctuation, or indeed incoherent sentences. This would also explain the bizarre picture on the page for polygraphs, the strange jumble of items on the weapons page (I'm surprised they didn't add toilet paper and paper towels) and the odd list of services such as contacting old friends and covert pregnancy testing. It would also explain the weird paean to the FBI on the kidnapping page-- another example of padding to make the web site appear beefier.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:51 AM on October 2, 2009


Agggggh. I screwed up my joke. It should have been: Urine the Money Sweepstakes! Just pee on this stick blah blah.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:57 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Eighty-eight comments so far, and nobody has complained that the City of Hardin Two Rivers Port Authority uses Comic Sans on their website? Did I just fall for something? Is this entire thread a put-on? Did they move April Fool's Day?
posted by Xoebe at 9:20 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


don't let the sun set on you here.

Holy hells, I saw that sign in some town in Georgia when I was there years ago. I thought I'd imagined it or something, as I was returning from a moonshiner at the time.
posted by LD Feral at 9:20 AM on October 2, 2009


Urine the Money Sweepstakes!

sounds like my idea for a game show in Thailand: Up Your Baht
posted by snofoam at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Con job sounds about right. There's no making any sense of that logo. A swiped Serbian Crest, plus a clip-art crown stacked over some text? The double-headed eagle has meant a lot of things, but connecting it to anything "American" would be a hell of a stretch. And a crown? Really? Does not compute.

Though it would make a hell of a story if the exiled Tsarists made the first move in their comeback campaign by forming a creepy mercenary police force and taking over a small-town Montana jail. Damned if I can figure what move two would be.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:26 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is pretty awesome. In the old-school way of using that word. I just hope my partner doesn't see it. He has the anxiety about this kind of stuff. Really, we live in a world where there are a lot of shady people with guns--and we put most of the guns in their hands ourselves. A private prison? Welcome to upstate New York.
posted by kathrineg at 9:27 AM on October 2, 2009


So the plan is this: we set up shop one county over with basically the same idea, only we call ourselves Viper or Asp or... Cobra, yeah, that has a nice ring to it. Anyway, we set up our own weird, paramilitary crack unit, and we figure out ways to fight with these guys all the time. Our polygraph will be three stories tall and have lasers and missiles.

It'll be sweet.

I get to wear the metal mask though.
posted by quin at 9:29 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Damned if I can figure what move two would be.

Umm, step two: PROFIT!!! (obviously...)
posted by saulgoodman at 9:30 AM on October 2, 2009


And yeah, honestly, my first thought upon seeing this was a bizarre viral campaign for the completely unwelcome Red Dawn Remake we shall soon be subjected to. This notion lasted until I read that the Montana AG was involved.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:34 AM on October 2, 2009


Call me crazy, but I think APF is basically Mall Ninja writ large. The promise that they can handle everything from snooping on cheating spouses to selling biological weapons. The photo of the Heidelberg four-color offset polygraph machine—all the photography in fact seems like good-quality stock photography, nothing that actually depicts APF doing, well, whatever it is they do.

I suspect these guys got some contracts for night watchmen and whatnot, and let delusions of grandeur—or delusions of adequacy—carry them the rest of the way.
posted by adamrice at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2009


Reporter turned APF Flack: "I made a great career choice."

Shay made clear that part of her will always feel like a reporter. "I've got printer's ink in my blood," she said.

That "polygraph?" It's a brainwashing machine!
posted by Floydd at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2009


Call me crazy, but I think APF is basically Mall Ninja writ large.

The original Mall Ninja post we had here is still one of my favorite MeFi conversations.
posted by quin at 9:48 AM on October 2, 2009


Did anyone take the photo tour on the tworiversauthority site? Whoa.

"I've got FAITH of the heaaaart....I'm goin' where my heart can take MEEE!"
posted by orme at 9:50 AM on October 2, 2009


So the plan is this: we set up shop one county over with basically the same idea, only we call ourselves Viper or Asp or... Cobra, yeah, that has a nice ring to it. Anyway, we set up our own weird, paramilitary crack unit, and we figure out ways to fight with these guys all the time. Our polygraph will be three stories tall and have lasers and missiles.

It'll be sweet.

I get to wear the metal mask though.
posted by quin


The hell you say.
posted by COBRA! at 9:58 AM on October 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


Uhhh, after seeing the photo tour, there's no way this is real. Why all the contextless photos of clearly labelled rooms and keys? This has to be viral marketing for a video game.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:09 AM on October 2, 2009


It bears repeating that the guy has a long history of scamming. I'm sort of uncertain as to what is real and what isn't. I notice that all the articles are rather short on photographs, the fact it is in the middle of nowhere doesn't help.

Combine that you have a sheriff and small town with zero experience with media of any kind, let alone national media attention. Security firms by their very nature are shady, hard to penetrate organizations. They all look like they're from a bad video game, even the legitimate ones. This guy latched onto that and created almost a comical Pynchonian parody of a security firm. He probably got a couple of seed investors, bought a Mercedes and put up a big front. A couple of careful press releases and manipulating a local town into thinking they're something big or at least beyond the scope of whatever the town is likely used to dealing with (drunks and domestic abuse). He then goes to whatever investors he's been plying or new investors he's been cultivating and points to the media and press releases, hey he's building a $30mil facility! That's enough for at least one naive rich dentist in Denver to part away with $20k in this can't lose investment.

It is obvious to us and after TPM uncovered his rap sheet, but people like this are really, really good at manufacturing something out of nothing. The good ones are so charming you overlook the obvious foolishness of the operation. I don't think that can be understated.
posted by geoff. at 10:17 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think it's obviously a con job. APF doesn't do any of the things they advertise on their website; I doubt they even have any employees, let alone guns. In fact, the Montana AG is currently investigating them for false advertising.

More than anything, this reminds me of the plot of The Music Man, but with mercenaries. Except that in the internet age, everyone in the world got to see this modern day Harold Hill's outlandish claims and make fun of the poor rubes in Hardin for buying into his half-baked con.

Seventy-six armed guards run the private jail...
posted by mr_roboto at 10:28 AM on October 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


With a hundred and ten Hornets close at hand.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those additional promises were not included in the jail agreement, which remains in limbo because US Bank has so far declined to sign off on the contract. The bank is the trustee for the bonds used to fund the jail.
A US Bank spokeswoman declined to comment, but Peterson was adamant the deal would be approved.
"It's a solid deal. That's all I'll say," he said.


Oh wow, yeah. I've seen so many legitimate projects languish and fail because of bond requirements. Most gov't work requires bonding for these purposes, often a smaller contractor will seek a partnership with a larger entity who will accept the liability of the bond. For really, really large projects you'll have a super-contractor like Turner which basically serves as a vehicle to provide liability. That is not to say the larger entity would be just a middle man, liabilities for failed performance are huge and margins on work like this are razor thin. One guy cuts a power line and you're spending $75,000 of your $100,000 profit to fix it.

Yeah this guy probably had a good scam going and didn't understand the requirements of bonded work. Even medium sized projects like this would require the owners to take own personal liability for the purposes of the bond, and that audited financials show their personal assets can cover it in worst case scenarios. This should give you an idea of how high these liabilities can run. This story was dead before it ran.
posted by geoff. at 10:34 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Most gov't work requires bonding for these purposes, often a smaller contractor will seek a partnership with a larger entity who will accept the liability of the bond.

I think you're misunderstanding the issue with USBank. They're not discussing bonding the project against liability. USBank is the holder of the municipal bonds that were initially issued to fund the building of the jail, which the city is currently in default on. As such, the bank has some say-so in what gets done with the jail. I'm sure there are huge bonding and liability issues that none of these people has even stopped to consider, though. I guarantee you that this fly-by-night isn't insured for one iota of liability currently.

On a tangent, it looks like the original jail construction was basically the result of another scam. Someone managed to convince the city fathers that this was a great money-making idea, so they took out bonds and sunk the $27 million or however much into the construction, with a nice profit to the contractor who came up with the dumb plan in the first place.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:50 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The double-headed eagle has meant a lot of things

Yeah, but the last time people spent time dealing with it, each held a banner in its mouth, one saying yes and one saying no.
posted by mephron at 11:14 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're right, I read through it too quickly, I thought they were surety bonds.
posted by geoff. at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2009


> Uhhh, after seeing the photo tour, there's no way this is real. Why all the contextless photos of clearly labelled rooms and keys? This has to be viral marketing for a video game.

"There is no fence or gate being built around Hardin. People are not being put in jail for refusing the swine flu shot. And our city is not being taken over by a private police agency."

does sound like a Jericho-like videogame. Sure, there's no fence around Hardin, but trust that [player name here] will find out the truth and rout the evildoers.

"Welcome. Welcome, to City 17. You have chosen, or been chosen, to relocate to one of our finest remaining urban centers. I thought so much of City 17, that I elected to establish my administration, here, in the citadel, so thoughtfully provided by our benefactors. I am proud to call City 17 my home. And so, whether you are here to stay, or passing through to parts unknown, welcome, to City 17. It's safer here."
posted by morganw at 11:34 AM on October 2, 2009


This may well be a con job, but does anyone really think a city with comic fucking sans on their website is going to have the smarts to pick up on it right away?
I bet some people would even be impressed by the APF site.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2009


Hardin certainly was.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:04 PM on October 2, 2009


I love the testimonials on their careers page. I can't help but complete the sentence on the first one:

“...APF offers their employees wonderful opportunities to travel the world and meet new people and cultures.....”

I just want to add and kill them!
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Offset printing press.
posted by Lazlo at 12:33 AM on October 2


That "polygraph" is totally a printing press. Two-color offset, most likely a 20" Ryobi if I had to guess.
posted by lekvar at 12:31 PM on October 2, 2009


“OMFG the American Police Force homepage has fucking midi tunes.”

American Police Force!
Get away from me-hee.
American Police Force!
Copper let me be- hee!
*tinny guitar riff*
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thinking more about this, it's the perfect boogyman. The Left sees this as the natural outgrowth of the Militia/Minuteman movement, and the Right sees this as NWO/Government Detention Centers/Forced Vaccination. All things to all paranoids. Perfect.
posted by lekvar at 12:36 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, I've been following this story for weeks and am just overjoyed everytime I think about it. Today I broke down and sent the following email to my husband and mother (2 different people):

I've been following this story for a week now and it just keeps getting more and more outrageous. Here it is:

A quiet day in Harding, Mt., a tiny town on the edge of a Crow reservation in the middle of nowhere. The town is so small, in fact, that they don't have (or need) a police force. Poor Hardin; just like every other small, middle-America town these days they've fallen on hard times recently. Not even the state-of-the-art, maximum-security prison that was built several years ago managed to save the town. It now stands completely empty, deserted.

But wait! On a quiet day in early September, the day I am now talking about, a phalanx of shiny black Mercedes sedans roared into Hardin. Bearing ersatz "Hardin Police Force" logos and being driven by armed and sunglassed Serbs (and also Montenegrans), the fleet screeched to a halt in the middle of downtown (such as it is). Out jumped Becky Shay, a reporter for the Billings News who just the day before quit her job investigating the Yugoslavians she'd seen hanging around town to work for them as their company spokesperson.

"At your service!" said Becky, as she explained that the Serbs surrounding her were part of an "elite private security company" called America Police Force. The US government had contracted with APF to provide security in Iraq, she said, and worked closely with Homeland Security as consultants. And now, they were coming to Hardin to "fill up the prison" and provide jobs for the town.

Immediately, questions arose. Why were they driving around town with Hardin Police Force stickers on their cars? Why was Greg Smith, the executive director of Hardin's economic development organization, laid off with paid leave two weeks before the arrival of the serbs? Who is APF's parent company (Shay and Smith know, but refuse to say). And where are they getting the prisoners to fill up the huge, empty jail?

None of these questions have been answered, but one important one has. It seems that Michael Hilton, the president of APF, has a lengthy criminal record for fraud. Nonetheless, the city's leaders say the deal with the private security force to fill up and administer the prison will go forward.

http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_13427622?nclick_check=1
http://www.kulr8.com/news/local/61320122.html
http://www.kulr8.com/news/local/62465902.html
http://www.kulr8.com/news/local/63191387.html
http://www.billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_023e1c90-ae1b-11de-8891-001cc4c03286.html

Needless to say, people are FREAKING out about this (read the comments).

I really think we need to make a movie about this. Except instead of serbs, we should make them vampires. Like in Salem's Lot. Seriously, though, Becky Shay is the person to focus on here. We could make stuff up. Here it is:

World-weary journalist has her ideals crushed in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. She returns home shell-shocked, and takes a job at a small Montana paper, hoping to heal and get away from all the turmoil. But then...the serbs arrive. Because of her international reporting experience she's put on the story, but soon gets sucked into a web of deceit and intrigue as the handsome and mysterious Montenegran who runs the company bamboozles her with pie-in-the-sky notions about helping the areas dirt-poor Native Americans. Becky's on board even as the facts become more and more ominous, until one day, she recognizes one of the APF goons from her time in Baghdad. Turns out APF is a rogue arm of Blackwater, the notorious private security firm hired by the US gov to fight in Iraq. Becky remembers the well-documented atrocities Blackwater was responsible for and all the trauma comes flooding back. But it's too late now to extract herself! The serbs in APF have joined forces with the Crow Indians on the reservation and are gearing up to take over the town and establish their base in the fortified prison, from which they will launch an assault on the US. At last! Revenge on America for centuries of mistreatment of Native Americans AND for the US's bombing of Kosovo in 1993. What a bargain! It looks like their plan will be carried out, too, when suddenly, at the last minute, a big moving van driven by a member of the Montana militia pulls up to the jail and blows the place up (not because of APF and the Crows, no, because it's a FEDERAL prison). Hooray! We're all saved!

I'm serious, man. This idea has legs.

Having a slow workday,

Staggering
posted by staggering termagant at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: the cheat code for the salami in that guy's pants
posted by vibrotronica at 1:54 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone managed to convince the city fathers that this was a great money-making idea, so they took out bonds and sunk the $27 million or however much into the construction, with a nice profit to the contractor who came up with the dumb plan in the first place.

Are you guys thinking what I'm thinking? Something tells me that a certain small town mayor might be getting the Republican nod come 2012.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reporter turned APF Flack: "I made a great career choice."

Did y'all see the comment there:

I've been sending this "reporter" info about the scam that put the vastly overpriced jail in Hardin in the first place. I've been following the story since 2004. I have perhaps 1,000 pages documents, correspondence and stories on the hustle. I suspect that rather than acting on the many leads I provided her, she's shared them instead with the Hardin/Twin Rivers Authority attorney.

The (very) ex-reporter's editor found correspondence between me and the city attorney in her file months ago when I was pleading with them to cover the real story. This was before the APF ever showed up. After I was quoted on Billings television last week, I was told that the vice-president of the TRA posted my bio on shop windows around town.

Within two hours of publication of the initial story on APF, on 9/10, I felt I had gathered enough information to categorically state it was a scam and got hold of the AP and the Billings Gazette. A colleague and I quickly compiled a wealth of additional info. The media still neglected to move on it, save to finally offer a little timid, intermittent skepticism.

Finally on Friday, I documented Hilton's extensive history of fraud, breach of contract and evictions, and a couple of criminal convictions and faxed 30 pages to the AP, the Gazette and the TV station that indicated they wanted the info.

By Tuesday, my colleague and I had demonstrated that the "Michael Hilton" fraudster from Orange county, California, was one and the same as the "Captain Michael Hilton" who was parading around Hardin.

link to www.privateci.org


Fascinating story.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2009


What the hell is going on in this country? All the protesters are neoconservatives, being for the HMO-based healthcare system is anti-establishment, and now black helicopter conspiracy theories are playing out.

Plus, Hitler's skull turned out to be female, so that's a problem, too. Maybe Alex Jones was right all along, and the NWO is starting to buckle under the strain of regulating all the information on the internet and dealing with a financial crisis.

Or, it turns out to be a viral campaign. That's also possible. Everything falls in the netherverse between production values and evidence being too thorough to be a hoax, but too hokey and far-fetched to be real.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:22 PM on October 2, 2009


The more I look at it, the more I think it's a hoax. However, I'd rather it actually turn out that we're living in an action film, and that Obama ends up sending in some wisecracking one-man-army who uses only his fists, piano wire, and his powerful jump-kicks to stop the secessionists/forced inoculations/crazies.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:55 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


,,,some wisecracking one-man-army who uses only his fists, piano wire, and his powerful jump-kicks...

Ain't gonna happen. Bruce Willis is a Republican.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 PM on October 2, 2009


Did they copy their FBI tribute from here, or the other way 'round, or are they both taking from some other source, or is it just spontaneous?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:43 AM on October 3, 2009


Bruce Willis is a Republican.

So is Chuck Norris.
posted by scalefree at 7:06 AM on October 3, 2009


Obama has some kind of weird hatred of the UK so Jason Statham is out.
posted by Artw at 8:14 AM on October 3, 2009


I vote for the APF to be taken out by an elite, Impossible-Missions-Force-esque "fixer" organization masterminded by Terence Stamp.
posted by darkstar at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2009


I really think we need to make a movie about this. Except instead of serbs, we should make them vampires. Like in Salem's Lot. Seriously, though, Becky Shay is the person to focus on here.

Serbs would be good enough. That idea reminds me of the Indians in Jonathan Franzen's The Twenty-Seventh City. Recommended.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on October 5, 2009


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