A Kings Mountain “medicine man” who used cash from straw companies to build an underground survivalist bunker faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion and a firearm charge on Wednesday.
Reuben DeHaan, 44, owned a holistic medicine business that he operated from his home under the names Health Care Ministries International Inc. and Get Well Stay Well, court records show.
DeHaan admitted that, with the help of others, he set up straw companies and opened bank accounts in the names of the companies to hide his income and assets from the IRS, records show.
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He also admitted to dealing mostly in cash to evade paying income tax. From 2008 through 2014, DeHaan earned more than $2.7 million in gross receipts from his holistic medicine business but failed to file income tax returns for those years, according to court records. He thereby evaded about $740,000 in owed income taxes, prosecutors said.
DeHaan also admitted to possessing a short barrel rifle and two silencers that were not registered to him.
Announcing DeHaan’s pleas were U.S. Attorney Jill Rose and Caroline Ciraolo, principal deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
Federal officials said DeHaan claimed to be a minister of the Native American Church of Nemenhah, which describes itself as an intertribal convocation of medicine men and women, formed in 2002.
Church leaders describe the group as a “healing-based religion.” Steven Moore, senior attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, once described them as “sham artists.”
Following in the footsteps of the Moorish Nation and other “indigenous” groups, Nemenhah members have challenged government rules and regulations.
FBI and IRS affidavits show that in March 2010, DeHaan filed a no-trespassing document with the Cleveland County Register of Deeds giving notice to local officials that unwanted visitors to his property could be hit with a fine of $1 million in silver coin.
Two months later, he filed a declaration renouncing his U.S. citizenship and any liability for the national debt. Several years later, he informed the city that he had deeded over his property to the Church of Nemenhah. In 2014, he reminded town officials that he was conducting religious services on the property and warned them to stay away.
The IRS said the federal government does not recognize Nemenhah as a tribe or a church and that the group has never applied for nonprofit status.
During a search of DeHaan’s property this year, agents found the multiroom bunker beneath his front yard, according to unsealed documents in a joint FBI/Internal Revenue Service investigation. Agents found about 70 weapons in the bunker, including high-powered rifles, silencers, scopes and ammunition. Ten more firearms were found in the house and in vehicles on the property, according to the documents.
A “significant amount” of food and beverages was stored in the rooms, ceilings and walls of the underground structure, and agents discovered a couple of 2,000-gallon water tanks.
Also found were “various components that could be utilized to construct a destructive device” – including PVC piping, Tannerite, aluminum powder and 100 feet of fusing, the documents said.
DeHaan has been in the Mecklenburg County jail since his arrest in April. His sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.
Staff writer Mike Gordon and staff researcher Maria David contributed.