More Evil in One Wyoming House than Dick Cheney?

In Nicholas Shaxson’s book, Treasure Islands, he traces out a network of offshore locations, like Cayman Islands, where corporations and crooks hide their cash. But he also noted that the incorporation laws in various US states allows those same corporations and crooks to hide money right inside the United States.

Reuters has a superb article showing how one house in Wyoming serves just such a function. It focuses on a house at 2710 Thomes Avenue, Cheyenne, Wyoming that serves as the headquarters for 2,000 different corporations, some of them shell corporations, some of the shelf corporations waiting for someone to buy them. Among the corporations shacking up together at 2710 Thomes?

Among those registered at the little house in Cheyenne are two small companies formed through Wyoming Corporate Services that sold knock-off truck parts to the U.S. Department of Defense, according to a Reuters review of two federal contracting databases and findings from an investigation by the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency. The owner of those firms, Atilla Kan, awaits sentencing on a 2007 conviction for wire fraud in a related matter.

Also linked to 2710 Thomes is former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who was once ranked the eighth-most corrupt official in the world by watchdog group Transparency International. He is now serving an eight-year jail term in California for a 2004 conviction on money-laundering and extortion charges. According to court records, that scheme used shell companies and offshore bank accounts to hide stolen Ukrainian government funds.

Court records submitted in Lazarenko’s criminal case and documents from a separate civil lawsuit, as well as interviews with lawyers familiar with the matter, indicate Lazarenko controls a shelf company incorporated in Cheyenne that owns an estimated $72 million in real estate in Ukraine through other companies.


Another man linked to 2710 Thomes is Ira N. Rubin. Prosecutors allege he created a Rube Goldberg-style network of shell and shelf corporations to further his scams.

In December 2006, the Federal Trade Commission sued Rubin for fraud in federal court in Tampa. Documents in the civil lawsuit allege Rubin used at least 18 different front companies to obscure his role as a credit-card processor for telemarketing scams.

These operations, the FTC alleged, offered subprime credit cards that charged an upfront fee debited from customers’ bank accounts, but the cards were never delivered.

True, this may not amount to more evil than Dick Cheney. But it shows how critical these secrecy jurisdictions are to making corporations a vehicle of crime and other abuse. And, as Shaxson has shown, secrecy jurisdictions are also a key tool for corporations to avoid paying their fair share and for dictators to loot their countries. These kinds of incorporation services are a key tool to sucking the money out of the legitimate economy.

At a time when SCOTUS is giving corporations–even flimsy entities like the scraps of paper at 2710 Thomes–more rights than actual citizens, it pays to understand how easy it is for people to avail themselves of corporate personhood.

18 replies
    • DWBartoo says:

      Yes, ’twas prostratedragon’s comment which led me to this nifty “corporate” rat’s nest.

      Thank you for covering this, EW.

      Should be required reading for everyone living in America who is over the age of twelve …

      Perhaps Obama should be required to read it aloud to the entire nation during one of his Bank-Siding Chats? Or is that “chits”?


  1. AmosAnan says:

    I happened to be checking the basis for corporate “personhood” recently and its relationship to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave citizenship to slaves freed by the 13th Amendment. Not being a lawyer I didn’t have that much interest in the details so forgive my quoting Wikipedia on this but ..

    “Others argue that corporations should have the protection of the U.S. Constitution, pointing out that they are organizations of people, and that these people shouldn’t be deprived of their human rights when they join with others to act collectively.”

    In comparing this “logic” with the recent rejection of the class action suit against Walmart one can see yet another example of the political bias of the Supreme Court. People cannot “collectively” bring legal action against a corporation and must do so individually, but “shareholders” must be given the right to “collectively” do almost whatever they please as a special corporate person. The phrase “corporate shield” has many menacing aspects in its protection of the powerful and often evil individuals in our society.

    It’s not a little ironic that the amendment to the Constitution that made American slaves Americans has after all these years made the vast majority of us little more than chattel to our corporate overlords.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Correct, if you are a corporation you can pollute AND get tax credits for doing so. And then get legal advantage over anyone trying to get redress for say… the cancers they developed as a result of your pollution.

      Corporate personhood is one of the great evils on the planet at this historical moment, IMVHO.

      For all my whinging about the many ills of ‘the media’, one article like this one – from an MSM outlet, no less – brightens my day. Glad to see EW give it more visibility.

      And Shaxson’s book is one hell of a read. He connects some really important dots (as does this article).

      Nevertheless, given that Wyoming has < .2% of the US population as a whole, the asymmetry that its corporate laggardness creates in terms of economic and political powers is ideal for oligarchs, but dangerous for the rest of us. Ditto Delaware, another stellar creator of bogus corporate entities.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    [curtsey] and back at you —I’d forgot I was supposed to get that book.

    Maybe consistent recitation practice would help Obama with the stammering and gulping problems he’s having right now at this press conference.

    and AmosAnan, thanks for pointing out the 13th in that argument. It really shows the mentality.

  3. fatster says:

    O/T–Boy howdy!

    Microsoft director admits E.U. data not exempt from Patriot Act spying

    “Unfortunately for privacy advocates, their concerns are essentially moot thanks to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which a key Microsoft official said recently permits the U.S. to spy on data stored within cloud servers across the European Union.”


    • BoxTurtle says:

      That should cause some interesting discussions between Hillary and the EU.

      Boxturtle (Now that it’s public, the EU can’t pretend America is obeying their rules)

      • fatster says:

        Forgive my tendency toward optimism–particularly considering my age and all I’ve been in and seen–but I do wonder if the “Patriot Act” becomes so onerous to TPTB that the ol’ chipping away phenomenon might commence.

        • DWBartoo says:

          Them’s most respectable “considerations”, fatster, and yer “tendency” is much appreciated, hereaboats.

          Actual, and humanly rewarding change IS gonna happen (and time, as well as conscience, ARE on “our” side of the future …)


    • john in sacramento says:

      BTW, how’s this for a grabber?

      AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think — how should this change? I mean, you have this enormous emphasis on the deficit in this country. You say that offshore tax evasion has cost the United States $100 billion a year. How can we turn this around?

      NICHOLAS SHAXSON: Well, as I said, the $100 billion, I see, is just one part of the picture. I think that there are — there is some legislation that is coming in to try and crack down on this stuff. There was a bill originally co-sponsored by Barack Obama before he was president, and now it has not — it has not yet passed through, but Senator Levin, I believe, is — it’s called the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act — Senator Levin is, I believe, trying to reintroduce this.

      There is no magic bullet that is going to solve this problem, but there are a series of different measures that can be and need to be taken. And the first thing that really has to be done is for people to start to see how big and bad this system has become. While people think it’s just a few islands out in the Caribbean doing a little bit of tax evasion — I’m not saying $100 billion is just a little bit of tax evasion, but while people still see it as a problem just on that scale, there won’t be the political momentum for reform. One of my central arguments is this is so much bigger and so much badder than almost anybody knows. We need to — as a first step for reform, we need to understand that and spread the message.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Without the secrecy, many of these things would not happen, would not be profitable, or would not happen without higher cost or public censure. Worse will be the day when secrecy is no longer needed. Mr. Obama is making that day come sooner.

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