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Fearing booby-traps, bidders skip auction of 2007 New Hampshire standoff site

By Ted Siefer

BOSTON (Reuters) - An auction for 100 wooded acres in New Hampshire that were the site of a nine-month standoff between an anti-government couple and federal agents closed without any bids on Friday, possibly because of fears it could be booby-trapped, authorities said.

The U.S. Marshals Service had hoped to raise at least $250,000 by selling the property that included the fortified compound where Ed and Elaine Brown lived before agents in 2007 ended the nine-month standoff by sneaking onto the property posing as pizza delivery men.

While bidding was open in U.S. District Court in Concord, New Hampshire, authorities would not allow interested buyers to tour the land in Plainfield out of fear that the couple and a slew of anti-government activists who had joined them may have left behind explosives or other traps.

"I would imagine that was a factor," said Deputy Chief U.S. Marshal Brenda Mikelson.

Agents had inspected a small portion of the land and deemed it free of explosives, but Mikelson said clearing the entire property would be a difficult task.

"It's almost impossible to clear 103 acres," she said. "It's densely wooded."

There were also no takers for a dental office in the town of Lebanon where Elaine Brown had conducted her business. There had been a minimum bid of $507,500 on that property.

The proceeds from the sale would have first gone to cover unpaid taxes on the properties, which total nearly $500,000.

The 2007 standoff began when federal agents tried to apprehend the Browns on tax evasion charges. They rejected the federal government's authority to tax its citizens.

During the course of the standoff, the property drew numerous anti-government activists, among them Randy Weaver, the man at the center of the bloody 1992 standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, that resulted in the death of his wife and son, as well as a federal marshal.

The Browns were ultimately arrested after agents posed as pizza deliverymen.

They are serving at least 30 years in prison on charges of plotting to kill federal agents.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)

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