inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

No Bail for UNH Staffer Who Threatened Ramaswamy

Brought into court by federal agents and wearing the Strafford County House of Corrections’ inmate uniform, Tyler Anderson managed to stay quiet for Monday’s short hearing.

If he had mastered that same self-control before he allegedly started threatening GOP politicians, Anderson might not have been in court at all.

Anderson, 30, threatened to kill Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy at a campaign event planned for Monday morning, U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young said in a statement. And days before that threat, Anderson allegedly threatened a mass shooting at a different Republican presidential candidate’s events and made threats to multiple other candidates, according to court records.

“I’m very grateful to local law enforcement here in New Hampshire, including a retired cop who has worked with our team, for their swift response,” Ramaswamy said when he sat down with NHJournal to record an episode of Diner Table Economics on Monday. “I continue to pray for everyone involved in this process.”

GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy records an episode of Diner Table Conversations at the Airport Diner in Manchester.

Anderson, a Dover resident, is charged with allegedly sending two disturbing and threatening messages to Ramaswamy’s campaign. The threats came after Anderson received a text invitation to the “Breakfast with Vivek” campaign event in Portsmouth. 

Like many political candidates, Ramaswamy and his campaign use text messages to invite voters to campaign events. Anderson allegedly responded to one invitation with grisly and obscene threats.

“Great, another opportunity for me to blow his brains out!” Anderson reportedly replied. He followed up with, ‘I’m going to kill everyone who attends and then f*** their corpses.’”

Federal agents tracked Anderson to his Dover home on Saturday, placed him under arrest, and executed a search warrant. During the search, agents checked Anderson’s phone and found text threats to another GOP candidate, according to the affidavit filed in court. Again, Anderson allegedly sent the threats in response to a campaign text inviting him to an event.

“Fantastic, now I know where to go so I can blow that bastard’s head off.” “Thanks, I’ll see you there. Hope you have the stamina for a mass shooting!” “And then I’m gonna f*** (names) corpse.” “And don’t worry, (name), I’ll make sure to f*** yours too.”

When confronted with the text messages to one candidate’s team, Anderson told agents he sent more threats to many other candidates, according to the affidavit.

Anderson, 30, is a 2018 UNH graduate who recently started a new job as an administrative assistant at the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. UNH administrative assistants typically earn between $35,000 and $45,000 a year.

The University did not respond to NHJournal’s request for comment on Monday, but it is a safe bet Anderson won’t be at work for a while.

The government plans to ask that Anderson remain jailed pending a trial. Anderson will stay in custody until at least Thursday’s detention hearing.

Anderson faces a potential sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Ramaswamy told NHJournal that while the threats were disturbing, his experience campaigning for president has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I think we’re far more united in our basic values than most Americans would believe from turning on social media or looking at the cable news media,” Ramaswamy said. “Eighty percent of us in this country share the same values in common. Meeting people in the [Portsmouth] diner this morning, we had a lot of warm conversations and made new friendships that I’m incredibly grateful for. And I think that’s a good thing in this country.”

Feds Drop 17 Charges Ahead of Freeman’s ‘Crypto 6’ Trial

Ian Freeman got an early Christmas gift from federal prosecutors as 17 of the 25 felony charges against him were dropped days before his trial was set to begin. 

“While I am happy to see the bulk of the charges in my case go away, I’m sad for my friends who were intimidated into wrongful convictions for victimless ‘crimes’ on charges that would likely have been dropped anyway,” Freeman said on his blog over the weekend.

Freeman is the last of the so-called ‘Crypto 6’ defendants. Four of his co-defendants took plea deals. The fifth had all charges dropped. His trial is set to begin this week in the United States District Court in Concord, with jury selection starting Tuesday morning. Freeman’s attorney, Mark Sisti, told NHJournal he hopes to give his opening arguments in the case Tuesday afternoon.

Freeman was facing a potential of more than 400 years in prison if convicted of the original 25 charges. Prosecutors dropped all 12 wire fraud counts, three money laundering charges, as well as several other counts including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud as well as continuing a financial crime enterprise.

The remaining eight counts include conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and four counts of attempting to evade taxes.

Freeman was arrested in a March 2020 raid at his Keene home along with co-defendants Aria DiMezzo and Nobody, formerly known as Rich Paul. Freeman’s ex-girlfriend Renee Spinella and her husband, Andrew Spinella, were arrested at their homes in Derry. Alstead resident Colleen Fordham was also arrested as part of the bust.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Fordham early in the case. DiMezzo, Nobody, and the Spinellas ended up taking plea agreements that netted them light sentences. Freeman said on his Free Keene blog taking a plea is always a mistake, and that his friends succumbed to pressure from aggressive prosecutors.

“They stack a ton of charges against you, then threaten to stack even more if you don’t tap out. A few years of probation and a felony starts looking really good compared to 30 years in prison, so it’s understandable why people will take a plea, even though they didn’t actually commit the crime of which they are accused,” Freeman wrote. “The prosecutors love it as they rack up conviction after conviction, ruining innocent peoples’ lives and bolstering the prosecutors’ careers. Plus, they never have to bother preparing for and going to trial. It’s super easy for them and it almost always works.”

Freeman said his friends are now stuck with the convictions on their records, though they likely could have fought the charges and won in court.

“Now they are saddled with felony convictions for the rest of their lives for something that sounds really bad. The reality is, the accusations were simply that they’d lied to a bank, and that it was not even to try to scam the bank out of money, but only to do things like keep an account open,” Freeman wrote.

Freeman is accused of taking in millions of dollars through Bitcoin exchanges and Bitcoin ATMs with the help of DiMezzo and the others. Freeman reportedly used personal bank accounts and accounts for made-up churches like the Shire Free Church, the Crypto Church of New Hampshire, the Church of the Invisible Hand, and DiMezzo’s Reformed Satanic Church in order to conduct their bitcoin businesses. He allegedly lied to banks in opening accounts for his churches and other businesses and got the others to open accounts on his behalf, according to court records. Part of the operation for Freeman was to help cyber criminals swindle money from lonely victims, according to the indictments.

Freeman, DiMezzo, and Nobody are all part of the Free Keene collective, an offshoot of the Free State Project. The Free State Project made a show of kicking Freeman out of the movement in 2014 after he repeatedly advocated for lowering the age of consent. The Free State Project is a Libertarian initiative to overtake the state’s government. Freeman is an advocate of seceding from the United States of America. 

Third Crypto 6 Defendant Sentenced in Fraud Case

A third member of the so-called Crypto 6, Andrew Spinella, was sentenced to no jail time last week for his role in the alleged Bitcoin money laundering scheme. 

Spinella was sentenced on Aug. 30 to 18 months probation and a $600 fine in the United States District Court in Concord. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud earlier this year. His wife Renee Spinella, 26, was sentenced last week to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,000 in fines. She also previously pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Free Keene activist Nobody, formerly Rich Paul, 55, was sentenced to two years of supervised release last month.

That leaves just two of the original six defendants, Ian Freeman, 42, and Aria DiMezzo, 34, now headed for trial on more than 30 felony counts each. Colleen Fordham 62, of Alstead, had the charges against her dropped earlier this year.

Renee Spinella is Freeman’s ex-girlfriend, though the two stayed friendly after they split and after she married Andrew Spinella. The Spinellas reportedly opened bank accounts for Freeman to use as part of his multi-million Bitcoin money laundering operation, according to prosecutors.

Freeman and DiMezzo are accused of taking in millions of dollars through their Bitcoin exchanges and Bitcoin ATMs. The pair also used personal bank accounts and accounts for made-up churches like the Shire Free Church, the Crypto Church of New Hampshire, the Church of the Invisible Hand, and the Reformed Satanic Church, to conduct their Bitcoin businesses. The pair allegedly lied to banks in opening their accounts and got others to open accounts on their behalf, according to court records. Part of the operation for Freeman was to help cyber criminals swindle money from lonely victims, according to the indictments.

Freeman and DiMezzo are currently seeking to have some of the charges dismissed. A hearing on their motion to dismiss is set for Thursday.

Manchester Woman Linked to German Raid of Suspected Nerve Agent Facility

German authorities raided a chemical company this week connected to a Manchester woman who pleaded guilty to lying about her ties to the firm. 

The company, Riol-Chemie, is suspected by German authorities of sending chemicals used to make the deadly nerve agent Novichok to Russia, according to multiple German media reports.

Former Manchester resident Stela Sacara, 36, also known as Stela Secara and Stela Thomas, pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI agents about her role in several exporting firms that allegedly sent goods to Riol-Chemie.

According to German news program Tagesschau, executives at Riol-Chemie are suspected of “exporting toxic substances and special laboratory material to Russia in more than 30 instances over the past three and a half years without obtaining the necessary permits.”

Among the chemicals Riol-Chemie is alleged to have sent to Russia are materials to make mustard gas as well as Novichok.

“(T)he northern German company is suspected of having delivered protective equipment to Russia on several occasions – equipment that can also be used in the production of biological and chemical weapons and therefore falls under export restrictions. Investigators also apparently suspect that Riol-Chemie GmbH exported a chemical that can be used in the production of the nerve agent Novichok. This suspicion is evidently based on invoices found during a past inspection,” Tagesschau reports.

Russia’s chemical weapons production is highly secret, but Western intelligence agencies started investigating Riol-Chemie in 2018 after Novichok was used in an assassination attempt in Great Britain.

“Novichok became internationally known in March 2018, when former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by the substance in the British town of Salisbury, very likely by two agents with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. Novichok is also thought to have been used in the August 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny,” Tagesschau reports.

Sacara got one year of probation after she pleaded guilty in June of last year to one count of making a false statement to a federal agent. Records filed in the United States District Court in Concord indicate that Sacara may have been sending chemicals and lab equipment to military clients in countries that were under some form of embargo.

Sacara, a Moldavian national, was operating several companies out of her Chestnut Street apartment in Manchester, according to court records. At least one of the businesses was suspected of sending equipment to Riol-Chemie.

Special Agent Kyle Zavorotny, a specialist in espionage investigations, states that Sacara created emails for a fictitious company employee and sent messages to the agents to throw them off the investigation and keep what was being shipped overseas and to whom hidden from the investigators.

“Stela’s false statements regarding the identity of the company management and distancing herself from her role furthers this goal by minimizing her own knowledge of the end users and causing investigators to waste efforts attempting to locate individuals who do not exist,” Zavorotny wrote in the complaint filed against Sacara.

Zavorotny and Special Agent Courtney Rauch first interviewed Sacara in September of 2018 as the FBI and the United States Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement were trying to learn what she was doing with her businesses.

“Based on my training and experience, I know that entities in foreign countries will sometimes disguise the true end users of products acquired from the United States to prevent or impede the ability of the United States Government to determine the activities of these end users,” Zavorotny wrote. “In many instances, the end users being disguised are or are affiliated with the military or other agencies of the governments of the countries in which these end users are located.”

Sacara told the agents that she did not manage the business, but that she reported to another woman, Amy Johnson, who was based in Delaware. Sacara told the agents she did not have contact information for Johnson, according to the complaint.

Sacara claimed that Rochester Chemical acquired consumable laboratory equipment such as bottles, vials, glassware, etc. for use in laboratories from various manufacturers, repackaged them, and then shipped them to purchasers, Zavorotny wrote. Sacara told the investigators that the only company to which Rochester Chemical exports goods was Riol-Chemie.

The agents obtained a warrant for her bank records and other business information and determined that Sacara was in fact the managing member for Rochester Chemical and listed as the sole member of the corporation.

Knowing this, the investigators went back to Sacara in January of 2019 and confronted her:

“I asked Stela whether Johnson truly exists and showed her a copy of the Bank of America document in which she stated that she (Stela) was the sole member of the limited liability company,” Zavorotny wrote. “Stela stated she wished to speak with an attorney and declined to speak with us further. Stela was provided with my business card.”

Soon, the agents began getting emails from a company official named “Radu Bolocan” who claimed to be the current owner of Rochester Chemical. Bolocan claimed to live in Romania and did not speak English.

“(H)owever, the English in the email was nearly perfect,” Zavorotny wrote.

The agents tracked the digital information for Bolocan, as well as other emails from Sacara, and determined that the Bolocan email accounts were created by a user in Manchester right after the January interview with the agents. A review of several years’ worth of emails found that Sacara and her sister, Natalia Sacara, also known as Natalia Bolocan, were the owners and operators of the company, Zavorotny wrote.

Natalia Sacara was never charged for her alleged role in the companies.

The German investigation into Riol-Chemie is ongoing, according to the media reports.

In DC, Dems Go Maskless to SOTU. In Concord, NHDems Go to Court to Fight Return to House

On Monday, House Minority Leader Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) asked a federal court to rush a ruling on House Democrats’ lawsuit to block a return to regular session in the State House chamber.

On Tuesday, Democrats crowded into Congress, maskless, to cheer on President Biden’s State of the Union speech.

Granite State Republicans took note.

“I saw a headline this morning that the [U.S.] Capitol’s attending physician notified Congress that masks are no longer required ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address,” New Hampshire Speaker of the House Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) told New Hampshire Journal Tuesday afternoon. “So we’re talking about putting hundreds of people — members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, cabinet officials, and all the guests — packing them all into a room together, and Democrats say that’s all right. But we can’t go back to the [N.H. House] chamber?

“The Democrats keep saying ‘listen to the science.’ Well, we’re the ones listening to the science and the latest CDC guidelines. They aren’t,” Packard added.

The House Democrats’ lawsuit seeks remote options for legislators unwilling to return to in-person work. Since the start of the pandemic, House members have met in sports complexes, the University of New Hampshire and the convention center at the Manchester DoubleTree by Hilton.

Lawyers representing Cushing filed a motion on Monday in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston seeking an expedited ruling in Cushing’s lawsuit against Packard. Cushing wants legislators to be able to log on for the House session remotely. Packard has rejected this request and, thus far, has prevailed.

The appeal was heard in the federal appeals court in September, and no ruling has yet been made. Since September, however, Gov. Chis Sununu has effectively called for an end to pandemic restrictions, and the Centers for Disease Controls have adjusted the masking requirements.

The New Hampshire House is now set for its first session in Representatives Hall on March 10, the first time that House members have gathered in Concord since the start of the pandemic.

Cushing wants the federal appeals court to issue a ruling before the state of the session on March 10, claiming members have been risking their health for months because of Packard’s refusal to allow remote access to lawmakers.

“Some of the Plaintiffs have chosen to risk death by attending committee meetings and House sessions. Others have heeded the advice of the CDC and their doctors and chosen to not spend hours inside with unmasked, unvaccinated people. None of the Plaintiffs should have ever had to make a choice between the risk of death and their duty to their constituents. None of them should have to expose themselves to the extraordinarily dangerous conditions in Representatives Hall,” the motions filed Monday states.

Cushing did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Packard has said the return to Representatives Hall in Concord will not be a problem.

“We have managed smartly throughout the pandemic with many risk-mitigation measures in place to ensure the people’s business continues to get done,” Packard said. “We’re now in a different phase of the pandemic, and without some return to normalcy, we risk long-lasting damage to this historic institution and its traditions.”

According to Cushing, holding the session in the State House will mean many members of the legislature will not be able to take part due to health concerns, and their constituents will be denied their representation. This despite a year of widely-available vaccinations and boosters, in a state with one of the lowest rates of hospitalization and death in the nation.

“You’d think, with the Biden White House and the Congress going maskless and the CDC’s new guidance, that Democrats would be ready to move on,” Packard said. “Because it’s time. It’s time to get back to the normal way of doing things. It’s been two years. We can’t be cowering in a corner and afraid of going out and doing anything. We’ve got to get back to normal life.”

NH Teachers Union Files Error-Filled Suit Against Anti-Discrimination Law

The New Hampshire branch of the American Federation of Teachers joined a handful of parents and teachers in a federal lawsuit Monday against “divisive concepts statute.” Only one problem: New Hampshire doesn’t have one.

The 50-page lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Concord — which often reads like a political campaign flyer — uses the phrase “divisive concepts” 103 times, even though the “divisive concepts” bill never passed the legislature. Instead, the state passed an anti-discrimination bill attempting to stop the continued use of Critical Race Theory-inspired curricula.

The lawsuit also quotes from legislation that was never passed, as well as screenshots of social media posts by private organizations like Moms for Liberty, which are not named in the suit and have no role in New Hampshire’s education system.

“It’s not shocking to me that there’s a lawsuit, but it does shock me that the lawsuit filed completely overlooks the actual legislation that was passed,” said Ryan Terrell, the only Black member of the state Board of Education.

The lawsuit refers to the anti-discrimination law — which bans government employees from teaching or training that immutable aspects like race or sex make people inherently inferior, superior, or racist — as the “divisive concepts statute.” The actual law does not contain the phrase and explicitly allows for the teaching of U.S. history on the issue of race.

“They must have filed this lawsuit in the wrong state,” said state Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, the House Majority Leader. “New Hampshire does not have a ‘divisive concepts’ statute.

Contacted Monday evening, AFT-NH President Deb Howes, refused to answer questions before hanging up.

“Not right now, I’m the car,” she said when NH Journal’s reporter identified himself.

A national AFT spokesperson referred questions about “divisive concepts” back to Howes, but noted that many in the New Hampshire media have labeled the law as a “divisive concept” law that bans certain subjects from being taught.

State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, can’t understand why the American Federation of Teachers wants to overturn an anti-discrimination law.

“New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination law prohibits teaching New Hampshire students that they are ‘inherently superior or inferior to people of another age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin.'” Bradley said. “Clearly any instruction that teaches students they are inferior or superior due to these characteristics is discrimination and it’s terribly disappointing that this lawsuit has even been filed.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of teachers and parents against what they claim is a “culture war” in the classroom.

“The ‘culture wars’ have no place in New Hampshire’s classrooms. Our public school teachers and support staff are dedicated public servants who have stepped up and devoted themselves beyond measure during the pandemic to continue to teach our children,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, they are being politically targeted and threatened with public shaming and undeserved disciplinary proceedings (not to mention the cost of defending themselves) for doing their jobs in accordance with the curriculum formally adopted by the state.

“New Hampshire parents, too, are entitled to send their children to school, expecting a full and robust exchange of ideas in the classroom, uncorrupted by censorship and extremist partisanship,” according to the lawsuit.

Parents opposed to CRT-based instruction say school administrators and teachers brought the culture war into the classroom by teaching their children they are white supremacists or part of upholding white supremacy, regardless of their behavior or beliefs.

Terrell opposed the original bill as censorship and an overstep. The anti-discrimination law that passed is something he supports, since it reinforces the American principle of equality, without dictating what can be taught in the classroom. He said the NH AFT’s lawsuit presumes New Hampshire teachers can’t handle nuance.

“This is a slap in the face to our teachers,” he said.

The suit names New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire Commissioner on Human Rights chair Christian Kim and Attorney General John Fomella as defendants. 

Edelblut declined to comment, citing pending litigation.