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Carolina 'patriot' convicted of fraud, passing bad checks

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A leader of North Carolina's so-called patriot movement has been convicted of fraud and trying to pay off debts and back taxes with fake checks obtained from the Montana Freemen.

Jurors took less than three hours Thursday to convict Peter Stern, 57, on seven federal charges, including conspiracy, obstructing the Internal Revenue Service and threatening to kidnap two federal judges.

Stern could face more than 60 years in prison at sentencing.

Stern said he thought documents he obtained from the Montana Freemen were legitimate financial instruments. He said he never intended to defraud anyone by passing fake checks.

Nine Freemen were convicted in 1998 of conspiring against the nation's banking system.