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Jury Convicts Freemen of Fraud

November 18, 1998

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ A federal court jury convicted leaders of the militantly anti-government Montana Freemen of bank and mail fraud Wednesday after a three-week trial.

The jury returned the verdicts after only two days of deliberations, which followed three weeks of testimony. An earlier trial, which ran seven weeks, ended with the jury deadlocked on half the charges.

Among those convicted Wednesday were Rodney Skurdal and Daniel Petersen Jr., leaders of the anti-government group that held the FBI at bay for 81 days from their remote Montana ranch in 1996.

Skurdal was among Freemen convicted of writing millions of dollars in bogus checks on a fraudulent account at Norwest Bank. Petersen and his wife, Cherlyn, were convicted of depositing bogus checks in the First Bank of Lewistown.

Federal prosecutors alleged the Freemen, driven by hatred of the government, schemed to cheat and deceive banks and others by making and using worthless checks on a breathtaking scale.

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