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ABOVE – Ian Freeman (formerly Ian Bernard)

 

https://www.unionleader.com/news/crime/claiming-flight-risk-judge-orders-free-keene-activist-held-until-bitcoin-money-laundering-trial/article_04baa708-5613-5bc2-9f58-ac97b76616d6.html

 

Free Keene activist and cryptocurrency trader Ian Freeman will remain behind bars as he awaits trial on charges of money laundering, fraud and other financial crimes, a magistrate judge ruled Monday.

In a 17-page order that lays out the decision, Judge Andrea Johnstone said she is not confident that a freed Freeman will show up for trial in the future. She also feared that his freedom could allow his alleged crimes to continue.

During a hearing earlier this month, prosecutors described the wealth Freeman has built up in his exchange business, including 28 bitcoins, a $1.6 million cache this is almost impossible to trace and can be accessed anywhere.

“The defendant’s significant financial assets and the fact that much of his wealth is in the form of difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency weigh in favor of his detention,” Johnstone wrote.

Freeman’s attorney, veteran defense lawyer Mark Sisti, said he will appeal the ruling. He noted that Johnstone is a magistrate judge, and her decision can be appealed to the judge who will eventually try the case, Joseph Laplante.

“The next move is to get him out,” Sisti said. He did not rule out calling FBI and other law enforcement to testify in a future bail hearing.

Sisti said the Freeman case has none of the aspects that judges usually use to deny bail: a history of skipping court dates, a violent crime, drug trafficking or a gun-related crime.

The decision means that only two of the six people arrested earlier this month — Freeman and Nobody, who was formerly known as Rich Paul — remain in custody.

Aria DiMezzo, 34; Colleen Fordham, 60; Renee Spinella, 23, and Andrew Spinella, 35, have been released and must abide by conditions set by the government. Nobody has reserved the right to request bail in the future.

Authorities allege that Freeman operated a wide-ranging, no-questions-asked cryptocurrency exchange. He’s accused of charging high rates to scammers and other criminal activities to exchange dollars for cryptocurrency.

Most federal prisoners jailed pretrial in New Hampshire are held in the Merrimack or Strafford county jails.

Other reasons cited by Johnstone for keeping Freeman in custody:

Although he has lived in New Hampshire since 2006, he lacks meaningful ties to the state. His parents live in Florida and his sister lives in New York.

Freeman has transferred the property he owns in New Hampshire to the Shire Free Church.

His primary responsibility, hosting a radio show, does not require his presence in Keene.

His business partner, Mark Edington, is currently outside the country, possibly in Mexico.

He faces a significant penalties on some of the charges — a mandatory minimum of 10 years and maximum penalty of life in prison.

The case against him, built over five years by federal law enforcement, is strong, giving him another incentive to flee.

Freeman continued to operate his exchange despite being aware of the investigation against him.

Although Freeman offered to wear a tracking device, it lacks GPS functionality and could not track all of his movements.

Freeman did not provide enough detail about his offer to limit his electronic access and access to his currency exchange business.

BACKGROUND: 6 Charged with Crimes Related to Virtual Currency Exchange Business

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Hampshire

            CONCORD:  Six individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury in New Hampshire and charged with participating in a conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and other offenses, Acting United States Attorney John J. Farley announced today.  Those charged in the indictment are:

Ian Freeman (formerly Ian Bernard), 40, of Keene

Colleen Fordham, 60, of Alstead

Renee Spinella, 23, of Derry

Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry

Nobody (formerly Richard Paul), 52, of Keene

Aria DiMezzo (formerly James Baker), 34, of Keene

Freeman, Fordham, Renee Spinella, Andrew Spinella, and Nobody also are charged with wire fraud and participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Ian Freeman is charged with money laundering and operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise.  Freeman and DiMezzo  also are charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

According to the indictment, since 2016, the defendants have operated a business that enabled customers to exchange over ten million dollars in fiat currency for virtual currency, charging a fee for their service. They operated their virtual currency exchange business using websites, as well as operating virtual currency ATM machines in New Hampshire. The indictment alleges that the defendants knowingly operated the virtual currency exchange business in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations. In furtherance of their scheme, the indictment alleges that some defendants opened bank accounts in the names of purported religious entities. According to the indictment, some defendants then engaged in substantial efforts to evade detection of their unlawful virtual currency exchange scheme by avoiding answering financial institutions’ questions about the nature of the business and misleading financial institutions into believing their unlawful virtual currency exchange business was instead a religious organization receiving charitable contributions.

All of the defendants were arrested during a coordinated law enforcement action on Tuesday.  They are scheduled for initial appearances before a United States Magistrate Judge on Tuesday afternoon.

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service in coordination with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Georgiana L. MacDonald and Seth R. Aframe.

The charges in the indictment are only allegations.  The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.