ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A 60-year-old Ohio man, and the self-proclaimed leader of a group known as "Divine Province," was convicted Wednesday by a federal jury of conspiracy, causing the impersonation of a diplomat and producing false identification documents. The conviction resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
A federal grand jury indicted James T. McBride, of Columbus, Ohio, May 14 of one count of conspiracy, one count of causing the impersonation of a diplomat and four counts of producing false identification documents. According to evidence at trial, McBride was the leader of a sovereign citizen group called "Divine Province," whose members claimed the U.S. government was a "municipal corporation" that did not have authority over them. McBride produced and distributed false diplomatic identification cards to his group's members, and he encouraged them to make claims of diplomatic immunity to avoid arrest, debts or taxes. None of the group's members were in fact accredited diplomats.
McBride started selling the identification documents in September 2012 at a seminar he organized in Herndon. Afterwards, he sold the documents online and shipped them around the country. McBride sold the identification documents in pairs for approximately $200. One identified the holder as a "Universal Post Office Diplomat" and another purported to be an "International Diplomatic Driver Permit." The defendant also encouraged group members to send copies of the documents to governmental agencies to notify them about a member's status as a diplomat. The defendant claimed his authority to issue the documents came from the Vatican. The defendant also gave a televised interview on ABC News prior to the filing of charges in the case, in which he reiterated such claims. During the course of the charged conduct, the defendant's organization earned close to $500,000.
McBride faces up to five years in prison for the conspiracy count, 10 years for causing the impersonation of a diplomat and five years for each count of producing a false identification document.