Montana attorney general probes secretive American Police Force


USA Today | Oct 2, 2009

by Doug Stanglin

We posted an item yesterday about a secretive California security company called American Police Force that was set to take over operation of a never-used jail in Hardin, Mont.

APF raised eyebrows in town after Mercedes SUVs belonging to the company arrived bearing decals that read, “City of Hardin Police Department.”

The company, and the city’s economic development arm that has negotiated a deal with APF, refused to give details about its plans, including where it expects to get prisoners to put in the jail.

Today comes word from The Billings Gazette, which has been following the story closely, that Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has launched an investigation into APF to find out what’s going on.

That came after the newspaper and the Associated Press published stories saying that Michael Hilton, the apparent founder of APF who claims to be a military veteran, has a lengthy criminal record and has served time in prison in California.

The attorney general has sent a nine-page demand letter to Becky Shay, a former Gazette reporter who is now spokesman for APF. The paper says Shay did not respond immediately to its inquiries.

According to the document, Bullock is launching a civil investigation to determine if APF is violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

Bullock is demanding that the company provide proof for some of the claims on its website, such as having contracts with the U.S. government and operations in all 50 states.

The newspaper says it has turned up no record of APF contracting with the federal government.

Bullock also requested a copy of the agreement between APF and Two Rivers Authority, the Hardin economic development arm that built the white elephant jail two years ago.

The Gazette also reports that the state’s three-man congressional delegation and the governor have raised concerns about APF project.

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