Small Town Deploys ‘Military-Style Maneuvers’ to Collect 75-Year-Old Man’s Debt

What do you do when a 75-year-old man owes you $86,000?

If you’re with the sheriff’s department in Marathon County, Wisconsin, you send in a SWAT team.

The Marathon County Response Vehicle. (Image via YouTube)
The Marathon County Response Vehicle (Image via YouTube)

The tiny town of Stettin, Wisconsin, is home to fewer than 3,000 residents, and one of those residents, 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner, has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with the town over how he uses his land, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday.

Hoeppner, a retired paper factory worker, runs a tractor- and pallet-repair business on the 20 acres of land he owns in Stettin, the Journal Sentinel reported, and for years the town has been trying to get him to clean up the parts and pallets strewn across his property.

Piles of pallets visible from the road on a property along Packer Drive near Stettin, Wisconsin. (Image via Google Maps)
Piles of pallets visible from the road on a property along Packer Drive near Stettin, Wisconsin. (Image via Google Maps)

The city has won a series of court cases against Hoeppner, and contends that the septuagenarian has not abided by prior agreements to clean up his land, leading a judge to impose $500-per-day fines on Hoeppner in April 2013.

On Oct. 2, Stettin obtained a writ of execution to collect the more than $80,000 Hoeppner owed, the newspaper reported, and the sheriff’s SWAT team made its move, bringing 24 armed officers and an armored vehicle, the Marathon County Response Vehicle — or MARV — to Hoeppner’s house.

In the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri, the nation may be turning a critical eye towards militarized police forces, but Stettin’s law enforcement defended the use of the MARV to collect money from an old man.

“I’ve been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up,” Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Bean told the Journal Sentinel, arguing that deployment of the vehicle can save time and money and promote safety.

Bean seemed to be right in Hoeppner’s case: the man reportedly didn’t come out of his home to talk to deputies until the MARV pulled onto his property.

Take a look at the MARV below:

Hoeppner’s attorney, Ryan Lister, criticized law enforcement’s move, saying, “Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice … and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment.”

Hoeppner admitted to the Journal Sentinel that perhaps he had been “hostile,” but added, “The $86,000 figure is enough to shock most men. And they wanted it now, today.”

The town dropped the $6,000 and charged Hoeppner a clean $80,000 after issues surrounding the hauling of Hoeppner’s equipment were sorted out, he said.

Claiming Stettin officials have a “vendetta” against him, Hoeppner said he’s spent his retirement fund — roughly $200,000 —  fighting the town about the use of his land.

He also claimed that after he was visited by a SWAT team and forced to shelled out $80,000, his wife was so shaken that he had to take her to the hospital.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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