Auction for properties of Plainfield tax evaders fails, no bidders
The auction for the properties of Ed and Elaine Brown, the tax-evading couple convicted of amassing an arsenal of weapons and holding out against law enforcement officials in 2007, opened yesterday just after 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 3 at U.S. District Court in Concord.
About two minutes later, it was over.
“I have no bidders and this auction has ended,” announced Brenda Mikelson, deputy chief U.S. Marshal. The room fell quiet.
“Wow,” someone responded from gallery.
The auction was meant to cap a nearly decade-long saga that drew national attention and included a nine-month armed standoff between the Browns and authorities at their Plainfield home. When the couple was eventually arrested, the house was found stuffed with guns and homemade explosives. The Browns were each later sentenced to more than 30 years in federal prison.
The properties for sale include the Plainfield home, a fortress-like compound on 100 acres, and a dental office in West Lebanon, across from the PowerHouse Mall. The home had been listed at a minimum $250,000 bid, the office at $507,500. Neither property has been maintained or altered since the Browns left, according to local officials.
Mikelson and attorneys for both communities said they plan to work together to come up with some other way to sell the parcels, by lowering the prices or marketing them in other ways. The U.S. Marshal’s office currently holds the deed on both addresses.
Steve Halleran, the town administrator in Plainfield, said the town is eager for the home to sell. The Browns currently owe the town $190,000 in taxes – about 40 percent of the town’s total outstanding taxes – and proceeds from the sale would go toward paying that off. Lebanon is owed $161,000, or about 7 percent of its total outstanding taxes, a city official said.
“Our only interest is getting the $190,000 in taxes,” Halleran said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens next in the process.”
Plainfield’s attorney, Barry Schuster, said he plans to confer with local officials about possible next steps. Shawn Tanguay, Lebanon’s attorney, said he would do the same. At least one more auction is expected.
“Our interest would be in trying to get them to do a more public viewing in marketing of the property, if you will,” he said. “So, we’ll just have to see how that plays out.”
The marshals’ office prevented prospective buyers from touring the Plainfield property, which is located at 401 Center of Town Road. Aerial photos of the home taken in 2007 show a large main structure replete with observation tower, a secondary residence, a separate garage and storage unit, and a solar array. Halleran, who has been on the property in recent years, said it’s essentially unchanged.
Mikelson has previously mentioned the possibility of land mines and other explosives buried on the land, but said yesterday she has no real safety concerns regarding the property. She declined to elaborate.
Brown and his wife were first arrested in 2006 for tax evasion, and retreated to the property the next year after becoming convinced their trial was stacked against them. As the standoff continued, they welcomed a parade of anti-tax and anti-government supporters. The couple were finally apprehended by undercover agents posing as pizza deliverymen.
Several people, including Dave McMullen, Lebanon’s chief property assessor, said they had expected a bid on at least the dental office, which Elaine operated.
“It’s a perfect location,” McMullen said. “I would think with time it would only go up in value.”
Neighbors of the Plainfield property were mostly unmoved by yesterday’s result.
“I’m really beyond interested now,” said Mary Sweet, who lives down the road. “I just would like to see it let go.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM. Maggie Cassidy of the Valley News contributed to this report.)