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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. 

Sylvia Accuses Sununu of Unethical Behavior as Gunstock Battle Boils Over

The state representative blamed for the ongoing fiasco at Gunstock Mountain Resort has raised the stakes, accusing Gov. Chris Sununu of a conflict of interest and suggesting he may have accepted an improper political donation from the resort.

Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), who heads up the Belknap County delegation, is accusing Sununu of interfering with the county-owned Gunstock Mountain Resort to benefit his own ski property, the Waterville Valley Resort.

“This is an ethical quandary for the governor as it interferes with the leadership of a competitor ski area, whose closure stands to benefit his family and his pocketbook,” Sylvia said in an open letter responding to Sununu’s criticisms.

The Sununu family is the principal investor in the Waterville Valley Resort. Sununu worked as CEO at Waterville until he was elected governor. 

Sylvia is also calling out Sununu for a $500 campaign donation he accepted from the resort for his 2020 re-election campaign.

Sununu isn’t backing down, lashing out at the extreme political views of Sylvia and some of his allies.

“They wanted to secede from the United States of America, completely un-American. They don’t believe in democracy,” Sununu said Wednesday. “I think those individuals should be removed for a variety of reasons. This is just the latest episode of their craziness.”

Asked if he was urging Belknap County residents to vote out a fellow Republican — meaning Sylvia– Sununu replied, “Oh, absolutely.”

Among the three lawmakers singled out by Sununu, only Sylvia voted for secession. Sununu said it is impossible to try to convince Sylvia and his followers to return the Gunstock management team to the resort.

“There are individuals that don’t believe in government. They don’t believe in America. They don’t believe in the Republican Party. They don’t believe in anything that we really stand for, so there really is no reasoning or rationalizing with them,” Sununu said.

Sununu also defended the management team and their decision to walk out.

“I think (Gunstock’s General Manager) Tom Day and the team that he’s had there have done a tremendous job. It took a lot of guts to do what they did, but they’ve made it clear they want Gunstock to succeed,” Sununu said. “They want to come back and make sure it gets right back on the right track, but they’re not gonna do it under the same circumstances.”

In his letter, Sylvia also claimed Day was under investigation for using Gunstock money to make a political donation to Sununu’s campaign when he quit.

“Since Gunstock is owned by Belknap County all its funds are public monies and using public dollars to support a political campaign is clearly improper and possibly violative of the law,” Sylvia wrote.

Sylvia claims Day quit rather than submit to the investigation. Sununu has offered Day and the other managers jobs at Waterville or with the state if they cannot work out a resolution at Gunstock. Sylvia claims that is more proof of Sununu’s unethical meddling.

Sylvia also supplied a copy of the $500 check from Gunstock that Day sent to the Friends of Chris Sununu in 2020.

“Making such an offer after receiving a campaign contribution is the definition of quid-pro-quo,” Sylvia said.

Sununu’s campaign manager Paul Collins pushed back on the accusation of impropriety, saying no law was broken.

“Under state law, a contribution from the Gunstock Area Commission is not a prohibited political contribution and the Friends of Chris Sununu did nothing wrong in accepting a contribution,” Collins said. “The governor is standing with thousands of citizens in Belknap County and beyond calling for a new commission that will get Gunstock open and serving the public again. There is no quid pro quo, and such an accusation is without merit. If any of our contributors request a refund of their contribution, we of course oblige their request.”

Rep. Aidan Ankaberg (R-Rochester) called for greater scrutiny of Sununu’s actions after he learned about the donation.

“This is public malfeasance and there needs to be transparency and accountability,” Ankaberg said.

The management team at Gunstock quit last week after months of fighting with the Gunstock Area Commission, accusing the political appointees of incompetence and interference. Gunstock enjoyed record revenue under the management team. The resort employs 600 people making it Belknap’s biggest employer.

The commission is made up of five members who are all appointed by the county delegation, which is currently controlled by Sylvia. Sununu has called for Sylvia and his supporters in the delegation to be voted out of office and to have commissioners Peter Ness and David Strang removed from the commission. According to Commissioner Doug Lambert, the management team has agreed to return once Strang and Ness are removed.

Meanwhile, the Belknap County Commission has joined in the call for the two problematic commissioners to resign, and they have sent a letter to the state Attorney General’s Office urging oversight of the resort’s assets.

“The County Commissioners believe nothing less than the survival of Gunstock as we know it is at stake,” they wrote to Attorney General John Formella.

 

Free Keene Activist Wants FBI to Return Seized Computers

Libertarian activist and leader of the Free Keene movement, Ian Freeman, wants the FBI to return computers and hard drives taken when agents raided his Keene home as part of a child sex abuse images investigation.

Freeman was never charged in the 2016 investigation. Freeman insists he has been targeted by federal agents for years because of his political beliefs and now wants his stuff back.

“It’s just the Shire Free Church attempting to get back what is ours from the 2016 raid, as it has been six years and no charges have been filed,” Freeman said Saturday.

Freeman and the Shire Free Church which he runs out of his Keene home are part of an ongoing criminal money laundering case brought against Freeman and five other associates. Any connection between the 2016 raid and last year’s arrests has not been made public.

“Whether that raid was simply an excuse to take our computers and go through them on the pretext of searching for illegal pornography or not is up to the observer to decide.  The facts are clear – obviously, they haven’t found any evidence of any criminal activity or someone would have been charged by now,” Freeman said.

Freeman is suing the agent who obtained the 2016 warrant, Scott Bailey, in order to get his electronics returned. The lawsuit filed last week in the United States District Court in Concord, claims the government obtained the search warrant improperly and that there was no evidence of any crime.

The lawsuit seeks the return of all his devices taken in the 2016 raid, as well as payment to cover the cost of the legal action.

In 2015, agents took his computers, hard drive, and other devices as part of the child sex abuse image investigation that has, so far, not produced an indictment or criminal charge, or apparently turned up any evidence. Soon after that raid, law enforcement agents began asking Freeman’s friends about his crypto businesses, he said.

Agents raided his home again in March of last year as part of the money-laundering investigation. This time Freeman, along with five other people connected to him, were charged with federal felonies.

Freeman (formerly Ian Bernard), 41, of Keene, Colleen Fordham, 61, of Alstead, Renee Spinella, 24, of Derry, Andrew Spinella, 36, of Derry, Nobody (formerly Richard Paul), 53, of Keene, and Aria DiMezzo, 35, of Keene were all taken into custody and charged.

Nobody, AKA Rich Paul, is another example of federal harassment, according to Freeman. During the 2020 interview, he said Nobody has been arrested in 2014 on drug charges but offered a deal if he would talk. Nobody, a pro-marijuana activist who ran for governor, declined the deal and served about a year in jail.

According to court records, since 2016, the defendants have operated a multi-million business that enabled criminal customers to exchange over 10 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.

Prosecutors have said 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 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. He is estimated to have more than one million dollars in cryptocurrency at his disposal, according to court records.

The money laundering case has yet to go to trial, though Freeman insists he is not guilty of any crimes.

Cryptocurrencies have been part of criminal cases in New Hampshire, and regulatory concerns as well. Last year, for example, Shawn Helstein pleaded guilty to money laundering after he was caught trying to convert thousands of dollars in proceeds from the sale of methamphetamine into Bitcoin, according to court records.

United States Attorney John Farley recently told NHJournal drug dealers in New Hampshire have been using crypto to buy and sell drugs on the dark web.

“Almost anyone who wants to find a connection can find a connection,” Farley said. “It’s everywhere.”

If crypto has a legitimate future in the New Hampshire economy, it will need to submit to some form of regulation, critics say. BlockFi Trust withdrew its application to open a branch in New Hampshire after deciding the Granite State’s banking regulations were too unclear for the crypto banking firm.

BlockFi is already in trouble with New Jersey regulators over its interest-bearing accounts. New Jersey’s Bureau of Securities issued a cease and desist order against the company, stating BlockFi’s accounts were not registered with that office or exempt from registration. BlockFi offers accounts with yields from 0.25 percent to 7.5 percent, and New Jersey claims the accounts violate its state regulations.

Freeman was an early Free State activist, moving to New Hampshire as part of the Libertarian movement to take over state politics. He had a falling out with the Free State Project in 2014 after he made statements on his radio program in favor of lowering the age of consent laws. The Free State Project officially distanced itself from Freeman at that time.