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At Bail Hearing In Bitcoin Fraud Case, Prosecutors Say N.H. Libertarian Activist Poses Flight Risk

Photo of courthouse
Ken Gallager / Wikimedia Creative Commons

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to deny bail to libertarian activist Ian Freeman of Keene after his arrest Tuesday, calling him a “sophisticated criminal” with hidden assets who should be considered a flight risk.

Freeman, a prominent libertarian organizer and minister from Keene, was arrested Tuesday, along with five other New Hampshire residents. He faces money laundering charges related to the operation of an unlawful virtual currency exchange.

Freeman has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a minimum 10-year sentence.

His attorney, Mark Sisti, countered the government’s contention that Freeman is a cybercriminal by arguing that he has no prior arrests on cybercrimes. Though Freeman has prior misdemeanor offenses on his record, Sisti told federal magistrate judge Andrea Johnstone that he has no history of failing to appear in court, and should be released pending trial. 

Following Friday’s hour-long hearing, Johnstone did not immediately issue a ruling on Freeman’s request for bail. 

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He's accused of operating a cryptocurrency exchange that obscured its purposes to financial institutions by using religious organizations Freeman founded, including the Crypto Church of New Hampshire.

According to federal prosecutor Georgiana MacDonald, Freeman’s cryptocurrency exchange was frequently used by scam artists who believed they could use his service anonymously -- including so-called romance scammers, who use social media or online dating profiles for purposes of blackmail. 

Freeman allegedly charged a higher commission than other Bitcoin exchanges, which the government describes as a signal that he “knew fraudsters used his service" and would pay a premium for anonymity. 

A raid of Freeman’s house earlier this week uncovered $178,000 in cash in a safe, 26 firearms, and “thousands of rounds” of ammunition. 

Sisti countered that the weapons found in the home were owned by a roommate. He argued that Freeman, whose past runs for political office have included a failed bid for governor, has no known criminal associations, as the government alleges he does. 

“He’s a perfect example of a person who should be let go on personal recognizance bail,” argued Sisti.

Prosecutors highlighted Freeman’s vast virtual assets, including at least $1.6 million worth of Bitcoin, as proof that he's a flight risk. 

Along with Freeman, a Keene resident who legally changed his name to Nobody is also facing charges for operating the cryptocurrency exchange. Also arrested this week as a co-conspirator was Aria DiMezzo, who unsuccessfully ran for Cheshire County Sheriff last year as a Republican on an anti-police platform.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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