September 13 – Faced with federal charges, Keene resident Ian Freeman is maintaining his innocence even as four of his co-defendants have filed guilty pleadings relating to a Bitcoin business that prosecutors say he operated illegally.
Aria DiMezzo, also from Keene, became the latest to admit wrongdoing in the case when she pleaded guilty Monday in the New Hampshire United States District Court in Concord to a single count of operating a money transfer business. unlicensed, an accusation that Freeman also faces.
Earlier this year, an Elm City resident who legally changed his name from Richard Paul to Nobody and Derry residents Renee and Andrew Spinella also pleaded guilty, each on a single charge of computer fraud. (In April, the federal government dropped charges against an Alstead woman who had been indicted as a co-conspirator.) The FBI arrested the six in March 2021.
“I don’t think it will affect my situation,” Freeman said of the guilty charges during a phone interview Tuesday. “Unfortunately my friends have pleaded guilty because … it’s a scary thing to go to trial.”
Prosecutors say Freeman, a libertarian activist known for the “Free Talk Live” radio show, and several co-conspirators violated federal law by running an unlicensed virtual currency exchange business that handled over $ 10 million in transactions. for several years.
According to the government, Freeman and other co-defendants used personal bank accounts and accounts in the name of “alleged religious entities” – including the Shire Free Church, the Crypto Church of NH, the Church of the Invisible Hand and the Reformed Satanic Church – to hide the nature of their business. Prosecutors say they then directed customers to falsely report that they were donating to churches or buying rare coins, not buying cryptocurrency.
But Freeman – who said prosecutors offered him a plea deal earlier this year that allegedly found him guilty of continuing a financial crime venture, the heaviest of the charges he faces – said he intends. bring the case to trial. Court documents indicate his trial is currently scheduled to begin on November 1, although the trial has been rescheduled earlier.
“Nobody was harmed in this situation,” he said. “I don’t think we have broken any of the laws in this case and I think this trial is a farce.”
US Attorney Assistant Georgiana L. MacDonald said in March 2021 that “hordes of cybercriminals” bought virtual currency from Freeman in an attempt to avoid detection by banks and government regulators. Freeman’s attorney Mark Sisti, however, previously told The Sentinel that he saw evidence of Freeman’s refusal to deal with criminals.
In addition to being charged with continuing a financial crime business, which carries a 10-year life sentence, Freeman faces 24 felonies: conspiracy to run an unlicensed money transfer business, run a transfer business of unlicensed money, conspiracy to commit banking and banking fraud, 12 counts of telematic fraud, four counts of money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of attempting to evade taxes. A federal grand jury in April returned a replacement indictment against him with those charges, overturning a previous indictment on 11 original charges.
“It’s pretty clear this is all chasing me; they used my friends to follow me and bring as many allegations as possible,” Freeman said. “This is why they offer offers to people because they just want to put me in jail.”
He also claimed, in his case and others, that the federal government is targeting cryptocurrency in a big way: “They know that cryptocurrency is a threat to the financial status quo; it’s a threat to the US dollar and they are lashing out. out of desperation at it. “
DiMezzo, also a libertarian activist, ran unsuccessfully for the Cheshire County Sheriff in 2020 as a Republican and this year is running for the NH House of Representatives in Cheshire County District 1 as a Republican. She is unchallenged in the primary on Tuesday. Freeman is also vying for a position at the Statehouse, running as a Republican for the NH Senate District 10 on a platform focused on New Hampshire’s secession from the United States.
In exchange for DiMezzo’s guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business, four counts of telematic fraud and three counts of money laundering, according to documents from the court. The charge she pleaded guilty to carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine, court documents say. Documents indicate that she is expected to be sentenced on December 20.
His plea deal states that from June 2020 to at least January 2021, DiMezzo operated a business through which he traded US currency for paid virtual currency, recruiting clients on websites including localbitcoins.comwho sent money to accounts in her name or in the name of the Satanic Reformed Church, an entity she created.
He has sold between $ 1,500,000 and $ 3,500,000 of virtual currency, but has never logged his activity, never filed any reports for transactions greater than $ 10,000, and never filed suspicious activity reports reporting transactions potentially involving funds derived from illegal activities, as required by law, states the plea bargain.
DiMezzo said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he hopes his guilty plea will have minimal impact on his campaign. Since she is expected to be sentenced by the end of the year, she said, it’s unclear whether her conviction of her could impact her time at Statehouse if she gets elected. She referred all other questions to her attorney, Richard Guerriero.
In a telephone interview, Guerriero noted the narrowness of the charge of operating an unlicensed money transfer business that DiMezzo pleaded to. He had previously filed a motion to dismiss that charge and conspiracy to handle an unlicensed money transfer charge, but Judge Joseph Laplante denied that motion on Sept. 1, according to court documents.
“Aria pleaded guilty only to not having the licenses required by art [U.S.] Department of the Treasury, “Warrior said.” … She’s honest and admits she doesn’t have a license and isn’t convicted of anything else. “
The court specifically asked if there is a restitution that DiMezzo should with his conviction for the prosecution, Guerriero said, but the government has indicated it owed none.
“The government confirmed on the record that there is no refund due to anyone,” he said. “… No one has suffered any losses.”
Ryan Spencer can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1412, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @rspencerKS