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Freeman Appeals Crypto Scam Convictions

Libertarian activist Ian Freeman is hoping to draw a ‘get out of jail free’ card now that he is serving his eight-year prison sentence for his Bitcoin money laundering conviction.

Freeman’s attorneys have filed a notice of appeal with the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, signaling they plan to challenge the state’s evidence as well as the financial regulation laws used by prosecutors.

A jury found Freeman guilty last year on eight felony counts, including conspiracy to launder money obtained through wire fraud connected to his Bitcoin exchange. His stiff prison sentence is due to the fact Freeman was laundering money for internet romance scammers. 

Many elderly victims were instructed by their scammers to buy Bitcoin directly from Freeman. Freeman took a 10 to 15 percent commission, and the scammers could then anonymously take the digital currency, leaving the victims broke and heartbroken.

Over a few years, prosecutors said, Freeman laundered millions for the criminals while knowingly aiding their crimes. Freeman advertised his services and discretion as he set up churches and bank accounts to keep the money coming in. At one point, he even advertised he could work with Nigerian currency, the naira.

Prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office wanted to put Freeman away for over 20 years, while his lawyers asked for three years at his sentencing hearing this month. United States District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante opted for a 96-month sentence.

LaPlante told Freeman’s legal team they would unlikely get the sentence overturned or greatly reduced on appeal. 

“I can’t see that happening,” LaPlante said.

Freeman was arrested in 2021 when federal agents raided his home and businesses associated with his BitCoin exchange. Five other people arrested along with Freeman either had charges dropped or took plea deals, resulting in minimal prison sentences. 

Aria DiMezzo, 35, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after she took a plea deal earlier this year. Rich Paul (AKA “Nobody”), 56, Renee Spinella, 28, and Andrew Spinella, 37, all pleaded guilty and have already served their sentences. 

The sixth suspect, Colleen Fordham, 65, had the charges against her dropped.

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 the libertarian initiative started by Jason Sorens to influence the state’s government toward libertarian principles. Freeman is also an advocate of seceding from the United States of America.

SBF Trial Highlights Stolen FTX Dollars Donated to NH Dems

At the trial of alleged FTX fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried on Monday, former executive Nishad Singh admitted to being a “straw donor” who helped SBF distribute millions of stolen dollars to Democratic candidates and committees across the country.

Among them: All four members of New Hampshire’s federal delegation and the state Democratic Party (NHDP).

And according to the available records at the OpenSecrets website, all four candidates still have stolen cash on hand.

“My role was to click a button,” Singh testified. Those “clicks” included $5,000 to the Granite State Democratic Party and $2,900 to each of New Hampshire’s four congressional Democrats last year. And SBF funneled thousands more to Hassan and the NHDP during the hotly-contested 2022 campaign.

In fact, Hassan accepted a total of $30,800 between her campaign and her PAC from Bankman-Fried, while the NHDP collected $20,000. That ranks the two as number five and six on the list of Democrats and Democratic organizations to total campaign cash from FTX and its affiliates.

And those aren’t the only problematic donations for New Hampshire Democrats. Hassan also received a $10,000 contribution last year from disgraced U.S. Senate Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), currently facing bribery charges after cash and gold bars were found in his home. Hassan has declined to return the money or answer any questions about it.

Not to be outdone, Shaheen’s PAC gave Menendez a $5,000 donation just three days before his more recent indictment. Her staff blames a “clerical error” but declines to say if she’s going to ask that the money be returned.

“It’s another colorful data point of the bigger picture that a culture of brazenness has taken hold,” says Dan McMillan with the campaign finance reform organization Save Democracy In America.

The fact Hassan and Shaheen haven’t made a greater effort to distance themselves from Menendez shows they are now part of a system that largely ignores voters and treats campaign donors and lobbyists as their real constituents, McMillan told NHJournal.

“‘We, the people,’ are now a nuisance, a necessary evil, an obstacle to [politicians] getting done what they need to get done.”

Bankman-Fried wanted to get things done, too. According to this week’s testimony, he saw donating to Democrats as a way to raise his profile, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Singh said the contributions, largely to center-left recipients, were made in his name for optics purposes. ‘It was useful for my name to be associated with some donations, even if the end recipient understood they were really coming from something else,’ he said.”

McMillan said these are all examples of a system that rewards politicians who can raise the most money. The money gives the politicians greater access to the levers of power, and it buys favorable treatment for the donors, he said. The lax federal regulation of the cryptocurrency market is, in part, a result of donations like the ones Bankman-Fried made, McMillan believes.

Save Democracy In America is promoting a taxpayer-funded campaign system, and McMillan argues it’s necessary because donors have too much power.

“Donors have become the gatekeepers, they are picking the candidates people are allowed to vote for,” McMillan said.

For example. Democratic donors are starving any candidate who might challenge President Joe Biden despite Biden’s deep unpopularity. “Donors all closed ranks and now Democratic voters are not going to have a choice this cycle on a presidential candidate,” McMillan said.

As long as politicians like  Menendez, Hassan, Shaheen, Kuster, and Pappas are incentivized to get money from donors, they will do just that. McMillan wants to use campaign money to leverage power back into the hands of voters. He’s hopeful it will work.

“We’re not a country like any other. This is the only country on Earth that stands for something. Being an American is about ideals,” McMillan said.

All four Democrats have declined to respond to repeated questions about these donations.

First of the Crypto 6 Suspects Takes Plea

CONCORD — Andrew Spinella is skipping prison as part of the plea agreement he entered in the Keene Crypto 6 money laundering case.

Spinella, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on Tuesday. Two other federal conspiracy charges are being dropped as part of the deal.

While the agreement does not explicitly require Spinella to testify against alleged ringleader Ian Freeman, the charge itself implicates Freeman in a scheme to defraud banks.

Spinella pleaded guilty to a wire fraud count stating he created bank accounts in his own name, and then gave control of these accounts over to Freeman in order to allow Freeman to use the accounts to sell Bitcoin. Assistant United States Attorney Georgiana MacDonald told Judge Joseph Laplante the government has text messages between Andrew Spinella and his wife, Renee Spinella, detailing the scheme.

MacDonald said Renee Spinella explained to her husband in the texts similar bank accounts she opened for Freeman had been closed because of banking laws.

Laplante asked Andrew Spinella point-blank if he was guilty during Tuesday’s hearing.

“I feel with everything going on, if I were to take it to trial, it would make it far worse,” he told the judge.

Laplante pressed Spinella on his guilt, saying he could not accept a guilty plea if Spinella did think he was guilty of the crime charged.

“I don’t mean guilty in some cosmic sense,” Laplante said.

Spinella continued that it would be worse for him if he took the case to trial and if he was tried with the five other defendants. Laplante again asked if he was guilty.

“There’s too much evidence that says that I am,” Spinella said.

Renee Spinella, 25, was also scheduled to enter into a plea agreement, but she did not appear in court Tuesday. She was reportedly feeling unwell and her hearing is now set for Thursday. Renee Spinella is also currently charged with conspiracy along with Freeman, her ex-boyfriend. Freeman, 42, Colleen Fordham, 62, of Alstead, Nobody (formerly Richard Paul), 54, of Keene, and Aria DiMezzo, 36, of Keene, are all charged with conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Observing Tuesday’s hearing were Freeman’s attorney, Mark Sisti, and DiMezzo’s attorney, Richard Guerriero.

Freeman is a long-time libertarian activist who first moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project. That organization distanced itself from Freemen in 2014 when he repeatedly used his radio show to call for lowering the age of consent.

In 2015, federal agents raided Freeman’s Keene home and seized dozens of computers and other devices as part of an investigation into the alleged possession of child sex abuse images. No charges were ever brought in the case. Freeman filed a lawsuit against the FBI agent who obtained the search warrant last week.

Nobody (Richard Paul) did jail time for a drug conviction in 2014 and has run for both mayor of Keene and governor of New Hampshire. He was held the longest in jail after the money laundering arrest last year, due in part to his threats against law enforcement.

DiMezzo, who describes herself as a trans satanic anarchist, ran unsuccessfully for Cheshire County sheriff as a Republican in 2020.

Freeman and DiMezzo both started churches that the indictments claim they used as part of the $10 million money-laundering scheme. According to court records, since 2016, the defendants have operated a business that enabled criminal customers to exchange over $10 million 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.

Prosecutors claim Freeman knew he was laundering ill-gotten money from criminals. The indictment alleges the defendants knowingly operated the virtual currency exchange business in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations. Additionally, the indictment alleges some defendants opened bank accounts, some in the names of purported religious entities, like DiMezzo’s Satanic Temple.

Agents took dozens of guns and close to $200,000 in cash out of Freeman’s Keene homes during the March 2021 raid when he and the others were arrested. He was estimated to have more than $1.6 million in cryptocurrency at his disposal that authorities know about, according to court records.