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  • Hilton Intends To Return To Montana To Build Military Training Center

    BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- A convicted con artist from California who roiled a southeastern Montana community with his unlikely bid to take over its empty jail said he intends to return to the state and pursue a military training center.

    Michael Hilton, 55, is the lead figure of Santa Ana, Calif.-based American Police Force. The company struck a deal last month with unwitting officials in rural Hardin, Mont. to take over its never-used, 464-bed jail.

    In his first interviews since the jail deal's collapse, an unapologetic Hilton told The Associated Press that his intentions were honest but his ''tainted'' name and a business partner who turned against him helped sink the deal.

    ''What happened in my past, I admit it. I'm not proud nor ashamed,'' he said, adding that ''there was nothing malicious'' in his jail proposal.

    Hilton's run-ins with authorities stretch back more than two decades, to a 1988 arrest for credit card fraud. He spent three years in prison in California in the 1990s and has outstanding civil judgments against him totaling more than $1.1 million.

    But he said his intentions in Hardin had been sincere and that he ''stood my ground'' when his background caught up to him.

    The Montana jail plans unraveled after media revelations about Hilton's criminal past sparked an investigation by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock. Hardin had been desperate to fill its jail after it sat empty for two years. Officials with the city's economic development agency signed a deal with Hilton without a thorough background check...cont'd @ The New York Times


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