'Sovereign citizen' guilty in diplomatic ID scam he claims was authorized by Vatican

The self-proclaimed leader of a “sovereign citizens” group was convicted Wednesday in federal court of selling fake identification cards to his followers.

A jury found James McBride, of Columbus, Ohio, guilty of conspiracy, causing the impersonation of a diplomat, and producing false identification documents.

Prosecutors said the 60-year-old McBride led a group called Divine Province, whose members claimed the United States was a “municipal corporation” that did not have authority over them, and produced phony IDs.

“McBride sold the IDs in pairs, one that identified the holder as a ‘Universal Post Office Diplomat’ and another that purported to be an ‘International Diplomatic Driver Permit,’ for approximately $200,” federal authorities said.

Investigators said McBride encouraged his followers to send in copies of the documents to governmental agencies to notify them of the group member’s “status” as a diplomat – which he claimed gave them immunity to arrest, debt, and taxes.

“None of the group’s members were, in fact, accredited diplomats,” federal authorities said.

McBride -- who claimed his authority to issue the IDs came from the Vatican -- sold the documents online and at seminars he organized.

Investigators said he earned about $500,000 from the scheme.

Watch an interview with McBride posted online by Eddie Gaddis: