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.