Plainfield to Get $36,000 From Feds’ Sale of Brown Compound

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/7/2017 12:21:01 AM
Modified: 4/7/2017 12:21:06 AM

Plainfield — The town of Plainfield will receive $36,334 from the federal government as proceeds from the sale of the former home of tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown. That total amounts to just 16 percent of the back taxes and fees that had been owed on the property.

Plainfield went to court last year after the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice said the federal government should keep almost $175,000 from the sale as compensation for expenses it accrued in securing and maintaining the property after it was seized by U.S. Marshals in 2007 following an armed standoff.

The 100-acre compound on Center of Town Road sold at auction for $205,000 in October 2015 to Plainfield resident James Hollander. The federal government claimed it should be compensated for $40,860 in plowing and sanding of the property by a local plow driver between 2008 and 2015. It also said it paid out almost $77,000 for packing and moving possessions from the property.

In a court filing last year, Barry Schuster, the attorney for the town, asserted that “numerous expenses” were “exorbitant, unreasonable and demonstrate a lack of oversight or maintenance of the property” and that Plainfield should receive far more than the roughly $30,000 Washington was offering to compensate the town for the back taxes on the property.

Plainfield was owed $232,661 in accrued, unpaid property taxes and other local assessments as of December 2015.

But in rulings issued on March 29 and March 30, U.S. District Court Judge George Singal said the federal government should get $169,089 for its expenses associated with the property, leaving Plainfield $36,334 for taxes, interest and compensation for advertising in an earlier unsuccessful bid to sell the property, which is across the road from a summer home owned by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The Breyer family had to skip an annual vacation in Plainfield in summer 2007 because of security concerns expressed by the U.S. Marshal’s Service, and after the Brown property was seized, authorities were concerned by talk that it had been mined with explosives.

Singal, in his order last month, referred to concerns about “hazards and restrictions” on the Brown property, and said, “quite simply, the ‘unique circumstances’ of the Brown case gave rise to special security concerns at the Plainfield property.”

He also said that a contractor hired by the federal government to oversee the various services at the Brown property said that the plow rates “were fair, reasonable and superior to those of the other vendors.”

Plainfield Town Administrator Steve Halleran said town officials weren’t happy with the judge’s decision, which did add some $4,000 to the government’s initial offer to Plainfield, but had decided not to contest the decision further.

“It seems incredible to us that the federal government spent $174,000 maintaining that property,” Halleran said. “The taxpayers are getting hosed.”

But he also said Plainfield had already budgeted a $120,000 reserve for uncollectable taxes, which covers the principal in taxes it had hoped to collect.

“The bottom line is our stated financial position for 2016/17 is unaffected, but we still are out $102,000,” Halleran said via email.

The federal government also seized and sold Elaine Brown’s dental office on Glen Road in Lebanon, but the city is only losing out on about $8,000 in taxes and interest in that case.

Singal’s final order calls for Lebanon to get about $334,600 in proceeds, while the federal government will get $80,339 for its expenses there.

The Lebanon property was also purchased by Hollander in the 2015 auction for $415,000.

Hollander has put the Browns’ Plainfield home up for sale, and it is now listed at $319,000.

Halleran said he is current on his taxes.

The Browns, who are both in their 70s and in separate federal prisons, were convicted in 2009 of conspiracy to prevent government agents from discharging their duties, obstruction of justice, and illegal possession of firearms, among other charges.

Although Plainfield feels short-changed in its share of the proceeds, the judge’s order also notes that there was no money remaining to satisfy any federal tax liens that might have applied to either property.

John Gregg can be reached at

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