Keene group indicted on charges of money laundering via bitcoin

  • Free Talk Live radio broadcast was a target of a March 16, 2021 FBI raid. Screenshot via Facebook —Courtesy

  • Aria DiMezzo, a Republican candidate for sheriff in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, poses at Central Square, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Keene, N.H. Republicans in the New Hampshire county are wrestling with the fact that DiMezzo, who was nominated in last month's primary, is a transgender satanist whose campaign slogan disparages the police. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2021 5:55:05 PM

Six people, including a novelty candidate for governor, were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in New Hampshire on charges of participating in a conspiracy to launder money using virtual currency such as bitcoin.

The group operated a business since 2016 that enabled customers to exchange over $10 million in “fiat currency” such as dollars for virtual currency in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations which, among other things, require reports to federal authorities about large financial transactions, according to an indictment handed down by a U.S. District Court grand jury.

The indictment includes details of telephone calls, emails and wire transfers of funds dating back to April 2017.

Among those indicted was Nobody, formerly Richard Paul, 52, who ran under his new single name for the Republican nomination for governor; and Ian Freeman, 40, a leader of a group of libertarian activists known as Free Keene. Freeman has long been one of the state’s most public advocates for bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

The indictment says Freeman “knowingly instructed virtual currency customers to lie to financial institutions about the virtual currency transactions that customers were executing. Specifically, they instructed customers to conceal from financial institutions the fact that the customers were purchasing virtual currency, and in certain cases, to state falsely that payments were church donations or for the purpose of purchasing rare coins.”

The indictment also alleges that some members of the group opened bank accounts in the names of purported religious entities and misled financial institutions into believing their business was a religious organization receiving charitable contributions.

The indictment claims the group “advertised virtual currency for sale online through websites including LocalBitcoins.com. Second, they operated virtual currency automated teller machines, or kiosks, located in the District of New Hampshire.”

The indictment says that on Aug. 25, 2020, Freeman sold 1.54 bitcoin for $19,900 “represented by an authorized agent of the United States government to be proceeds of specified unlawful activity, that is, distribution of controlled substances.”

All six faced a magistrate on Tuesday afternoon.

Freeman is accused of wire fraud charges, money laundering, operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise, and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Freeman didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Also charged are Colleen Fordham, 60, of Alstead; Renee Spinella, 23, of Derry; Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry; and Aria DiMezzo , 34, of Keene. DiMezzo drew national attention as a transgender self-described anarchist who won the GOP nomination for Cheshire County sheriff.

The Keene Sentinel reported that the FBI raided two properties in that city Tuesday, including a house owned by Shire Free Church Holdings LLC.

The paper said the FBI removed a bitcoin ATM from My Campus Convenience at 152 Winchester Street.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this article. David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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