Posted by Larry Keller on May 4, 2010
At first blush, Tip of the Spear Consulting Services doesn’t seem unique as a security consultant, with its offers to provide bodyguards, surveillance, debugging and polygraph technicians, as well as legal and financial advice on such matters as tax shelters and anonymous banking services.
But one way that it differs from similar companies is that it’s aimed at a very particular niche clientele: White supremacists.
“Your community and nation have labeled you as politically incorrect, a racist and a threat to the security of the United States,” Tip of the Spear’s website explains. “Your organization or your affiliation with a group that recognizes traditional white values has catapulted you to the level of a high value target by the Federal Government. Our team will show you how to legally own checking accounts, savings accounts, investments, real estate, credit cards and vehicles without the Federal Government, the IRS and Law Enforcement agencies ever seeing your name or your organization’s name listed as the owner of anything!”
Since last fall, founder John Harold Browne has run ubiquitous banner ads promoting his company as “the ‘Special Forces’ of privacy, intellectual and physical protection” on Stormfront.org, the world’s leading white supremacist Web forum. While it’s not known how much business Browne has drummed up this way, Tip of the Spear has been one of the top three entities supporting Stormfront with ads.
But there’s one thing its ads — and Stormfront proprietor Don Black, an ex-con and former Alabama Klan leader who in recent months has been overheard referring to Browne as his “bodyguard” — don’t mention.
John Browne, 39, is a felon. He will be on probation until 2022 for stealing at least $156,000 from his former boss and stiffing two creditors. He has a history of writing bad checks in Palm Beach County, Fla., where both he and Black live. His ex-wife’s lawyer says Browne is way behind on child support payments. Despite all of this, he also has advertised on Stormfront a credit repair and debt consolidation business — and even claimed there that he donates 10% of the firm’s gross to white families who have suffered financial hardship.
Who is John Harold Browne?
Is he the racist and anti-Semite he seems to be? He has expressed admiration for David Irving, the world’s leading Holocaust denier. On his website, he offers a free copy of My Awakening, the autobiography of former Klan boss David Duke, and a video addressing “The Dynamics of the Jewish Elite.” He has told skeptical Stormfront members that “my word as a white man should be enough.”
Don Black won’t say. Asked by the Intelligence Report about Browne and his history of illegal financial dealings, as well as his own role in introducing Browne to Stormfront’s members, Black still had not replied three weeks later.
Or is Browne what’s known in law enforcement circles as an “affinity scammer” — a man who uses the very particular interests of a certain set of people to lure them into parting with their money? His former boss and his ex-wife’s lawyer both say they never heard Browne utter a racist or anti-Semitic word. In fact, he retained two Jewish lawyers to help with his most serious criminal case. Lee Levenson Jr., the lawyer tasked by Browne to answer questions from the Intelligence Report, would say only that he “assume[s]” that Tip of the Spear is “a legitimate business.”
“My impression is he is basically a good person who got caught up in some sort of problem years ago and, due to that, was relegated to being self-employed,” Levenson said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s been fighting his way out of debt for several years. I don’t think he’s out to hurt anybody.”
Debts, Divorce and Theft
Browne, who has the unusual feature of one brown and one blue eye, is the youngest of 11 children from an Irish Catholic family. He was born and reared in Cleveland and attended John Carroll University, a nearby Jesuit school where, at 6 feet 5 inches, he was co-captain of the football team. He has lived at several addresses in Palm Beach County in recent years and dabbled in a number of businesses.
One of his early employers in Florida was Salesleads.tv, a Boca Raton company owned by John Fischer that sells people’s personal data to other businesses to be used as “leads” for mortgage, investment and other opportunities. Browne began as a salesman in 2002 and was promoted to manager, said Fischer, the firm’s president. Fischer said it was he who introduced Browne to a woman named Tracy George, who Browne married in West Palm Beach in 2003.
In October of that year, Fischer became suspicious of Browne, according to a police report, when he noticed that even though Browne’s sales were down he was spending a lot of money, including for the purchase of a Mercedes 500 SL.
In 2004, Fischer called the police. Browne, he told them, was stealing trade secrets — his company’s leads — and, in many cases, having clients make checks payable to himself, not Fischer’s company. Fischer told police that Browne had stolen $256,559.
Fischer fired Browne in May 2004. Even so, five months later Browne and his wife paid nearly $375,000 for a new five-bedroom, three-bath home near Delray Beach. (Five or six weeks after that, Tracy George and the couple’s infant daughter moved to Nebraska, where she soon initiated divorce proceedings.) And Browne wasn’t arrested until April 2005, when he was charged with two felonies — grand theft of more than $100,000 and theft of trade secrets.
“He’s charismatic,” Fischer said of his former employee. “You believe him. [But] he’s a scammer.”
In November 2005, Browne was at it again, bouncing a $7,605 check he wrote to Tony’s Deli. He was charged with obtaining property in return for a worthless check, another felony. But the charge was dropped when Browne eventually made full restitution.
At the same time, Browne continued selling business leads. In June 2005, he incorporated a Florida company called The American Oil and Gas Coalition Inc. (Florida’s Division of Corporations dissolved the company the following year, after it failed to file an annual report.) In 2007, a California man complained on a consumer website that Browne did nothing more than send him a copy of a phone book after he paid $1,000 for leads. “I should have know [sic] this guy is a snake when he’s [sic] business didn’t accept credit cards and I was told to ‘Wire Transfer’ the money directly into his bank account,” he wrote at Ripoff Report.com.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Browne’s legal travails continued in 2006. In March, he once again was charged with a felony after bouncing a $1,900 check to a doctor. That charge, too, was dropped after Browne made good on the debt.
In June of that year, Browne’s divorce from his wife became final, and he was ordered to pay $929 a month in child support. He was making $85,000 a year at the time, according to a court document. “He paid some, but not very much,” and he remains delinquent, said Kent Schroeder, a Nebraska attorney who represented Tracy George. That may have come as no surprise to George, who did not comment for this story. In court filings, she said that Browne once bounced a $6,000 check to a pool contractor who placed a lien on their house until she paid $4,000 to settle the matter. And her husband had written “numerous” bad checks to her, she said. Levenson, the attorney who spoke to the Intelligence Report on behalf of Browne, said that Browne is not behind on his child support payments.
In July 2006, two months after the divorce, George filed suit to force Browne out of the Delray Beach home, the title of which he had previously transferred to her. (She had complained in the past that her husband wasn’t making mortgage, homeowners’ association dues or insurance payments on the house while he continued to live in it.) A process server, however, was unable to find Browne.
In September of that year, George sold the Delray Beach house for $430,000. Their divorce stipulated that Browne would receive nearly half of whatever proceeds were left after paying off a large outstanding mortgage. But Browne’s questionable financial dealings continued.
In October 2006, Browne was sued by the owner of a Delray Beach office building after bouncing another check and failing to pay $15,616 in rent for two businesses he was running at the time, American Oil and Gas Coalition and Dataquest Partners Inc. The lawsuit eventually was dismissed.
In December, a check-cashing store sued him in small claims court for $1,785. Three months later, in March 2007, Browne was arrested and charged with two felony counts of obtaining property with worthless checks. This time, it was a dentist who received a bad check for $493 and a cigar shop owner who got one for $1,216. And this time, Browne — whose 2005 case for stealing from Fischer, his former employer, was still pending — also was charged with failing to appear at an earlier court hearing in the Fischer case. The judge denied him bond.
After Browne had languished for several weeks in jail, his mother, several siblings and family friends wrote letters to the judge vouching for his good character and seeking his release on bond. Browne’s “entrepreneurial spirit has had a positive impact on society,” wrote one brother. He “has added to the well being of his community,” added his mother. His former football coach called him “a great influence and example for our underclassmen.”
Finally, on June 1, 2007, Browne agreed to a plea bargain that resolved both of his pending criminal cases. In the 2005 case, he pleaded no contest to grand theft of more than $100,000, and the prosecutor dropped the charge of stealing trade secrets. Browne also agreed to pay John Fischer $156,559 in restitution — $50,000 immediately, and the balance at the rate of $750 monthly. Fischer told the Intelligence Report that Browne has made only one payment in recent months and is in arrears. (Levenson said he had no information on the matter.) In the 2007 case, Browne pleaded no contest to two felonies and agreed to make full restitution to the dentist and the cigar shop owner. In return for the pleas, Browne was placed on 15 years’ probation, with the first two years under house arrest. He was required to wear an ankle bracelet that monitored his whereabouts during the first year.
Only a month into his house arrest, Browne was sued again, and for the usual reason. An office supply company said Browne, as the owner of yet another company, this one called Accuracy Inc. — which he claimed had 64 employees — owed money for equipment. A judge ordered Browne to pay $126,639.
Browne didn’t find house arrest to his liking, and after five months he asked the judge to remove that provision of his probation. He said he wanted to visit his daughter in Nebraska, pay his respects to his ailing mother in Ohio, see a medical specialist about tumors he had removed and expand his business beyond South Florida. And the cost of paying somebody to walk his two dogs every day was more than $1,000 a month, he complained.
Once again, Browne had people write letters on his behalf. This time, it was men from a Bible study group he hosted from a nondenominational church on Friday nights. “I have found him to be a man of integrity and honesty,” one churchgoer wrote to the judge. Added another: “I thought he was a man’s man. Some body that I thought had it all and I can say I was envious. He quotes scripture and closes our nights with prayer. I feel he … wants to be the person that Christians can look to as a positive role model.”
It worked. The judge removed the house arrest provision from Browne’s probation. And for a time, not much was heard from John Browne.
Black, Browne and Whites
Two years later, in September 2009, Browne joined a world in which he was not a familiar figure, becoming a “sustaining member” of Don Black’s Stormfront forum at $5 a month (or $50 a year). That was the same month he formed his new company, Tip of the Spear. Ads in Stormfront quickly followed.
As with other companies Browne has formed, information about Tip of the Spear is sketchy. The company is not a registered corporation in Florida. Its website listed Browne’s American Oil and Gas Coalition — a company that had been dissolved by the state some three years earlier — as the registrant. He named himself as the administrative and technical contacts. Tip of the Spear’s website provides no testimonials from clients and no information about where it is located or even who runs it. The only way to contact the company is by E-mailing “John.”
It does, however, boast of “several white collar professionals on staff” to consult on matters such as tax shelters, corporate veil protection and anonymous banking. It recently solicited applications for people with 14 different job skills, including lawyers, translators and private investigators.
(Browne also now operates another leads business called Syndicate Information Services. Its website says the company is based near Cleveland and is “dedicated to Midwestern Integrity, quality & service.” What it doesn’t explain is why the company has a Palm Beach County phone number and a Las Vegas mailing address. It, too, was the subject of a consumer complaint in 2007 at Ripoff Report.com.)
Browne did not respond to an E-mailed question about the sincerity of his racist beliefs. His attorney, however, doesn’t see it. “You don’t have to be a white supremacist to advertise there,” Levenson said of Browne’s ads on Stormfront. “I’ve never seen any malice with him. I’d be shocked to find he’s a racist, or a white supremacist.” So why advertise on a well-known white supremacist website? Levenson said he doesn’t know.
John Fischer, who is Jewish, said he never heard Browne use racial or ethnic slurs. Nor did his wife’s divorce lawyer. “He was like a mystery man to me,” said Kent Schroeder.
But there is evidence suggesting that Browne’s racism might be the real thing. Last fall, Browne made a reservation for six to attend a Palm Beach County talk by Holocaust denier David Irving at the Ritz-Carlton in the tony town of Manalapan. At the Oct. 26 event, two neo-Nazis from rival factions in the audience stepped outside the room to argue, and one began stabbing the other. Irving blamed Browne for bringing guests who caused the embarrassing fracas, writing him to say that “we cannot allow your attendance at my future events.” (Levenson, who says he is Catholic with a Jewish grandfather, represents the more seriously injured of the two men.)
Browne responded with an E-mail to Irving contending that he was blameless and arguing that he took the knife from one man’s hand, possibly saving the second man’s life. “I … continue to support and admire your work,” he added.
Around the same time, when a Stormfront member questioned the honesty of Browne’s credit repair service, Browne took offense. “Look for yourself how many non-whites I employ, look at the bank statements and see how many non-whites are given money,” he replied. “The answer to both is zero!”
In the end, it’s hard to say exactly what motivates John Harold Browne. What is known is what he told a skeptical Stormfront member during the exchange about his credit repair service last fall. “I do not,” Browne said, “run a scam.”