Officials: Number of Sovereign Citizens Increasing in Memphis

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(Memphis) The gate chain has been removed and replaced by a security guard after squatters were forcibly removed from a $3 Million east Memphis home.

It isn't the only house in Shelby County that`s being taken over by sovereign citizens.

“They have been filing documents for years, but it has increased the last few years,” said Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood.

Leatherwood says three years ago he only got a couple of filings from sovereigns a month claiming ownership of a property, but now he gets more than fifteen a month.

“When you have a high unemployment, poor economy and large inventory of vacant homes historically we've had an increase in squatters,” explains Leatherwood.

Leatherwood says most sovereign citizens believe they are exempt from federal and state laws and that's why they target foreclosures, “On paper the bank owns it but in their view banks cannot own property therefore it is free game for someone to file and take possession of it."

Mayor A C Wharton says he also noticed a spike in sovereign citizens in Memphis, and the willingness to resist police, “Nobody has the right to just ignore the just directives of a law enforcement officer."

Wharton says in light of the growing number of sovereigns in the area the city is working on a plan on how to deal with them, but he could not elaborate on that plan.