Six people, including several associated with the libertarian “Free Keene” movement, were arrested Tuesday on federal money laundering charges.
Authorities say the group operated an unlawful cryptocurrency exchange platform that deceived financial institutions by claiming it was accepting donations on behalf of religious organizations they founded, including the Crypto Church of New Hampshire.
The accused includes a former gubernatorial candidate and libertarian activist who changed his last name to Freeman; a man with a lengthy criminal record who changed his legal name to Nobody; and a transgender woman who identifies as a Satanist who lost a bid for Cheshire county sheriff last year.
Ian Freeman, Nobody, and Aria DiMezzo, along with Colleen Fordham of Alstead, and Renee and Andrew Spinella of Derry, are accused by federal prosecutors of operating an unlawful cryptocurrency business that exchanged more than $10 million worth of assets since 2016.
According to an indictment released Tuesday, the defendants opened bank accounts using the names of “purported religious entities” including the Shire Free Church, the Crypto Church of NH and the Church of the Invisible Hand.
Prosecutors say the defendants falsely claimed their accounts were used to receive church donations and do church outreach when they actually were used to handle money for an illegal virtual currency exchange business.
Authorities claim the operators of the currency exchange instructed customers to “lie to financial institutions” about the transactions, and if needed, claim the payments were church donations. The defendants also operated cryptocurrency ATM machines in the state.
The defendants were scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court Tuesday afternoon. Ian Freeman entered a not guilty plea, and is scheduled for a bail hearing on Friday.
"Mr. Freeman maintains his innocence, and looks forward to a jury trial," said Mark Sisti, his attorney.
Freeman, a minister and ambassador for Bitcoin Embassy NH, moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project in 2006, according to an online bio. He contributes to the Free Keene blog, a libertarian website, and hosts a radio show.
DiMezzo was the Republican nominee for Cheshire County Sheriff last November despite running on an anti-police platform. Together with Freeman, DiMezzo sued Gov. Chris Sununu last year over the state’s mask mandate. DiMezzo was joined in the lawsuit by Malaise Lindenfeld, the proprietor of the controversially named Pho Keene Great Vietnamese restaurant that opened in downtown Keene in 2019.
Nobody lost a bid for mayor of Keene in 2019.
Along with money laundering charges, the group is also accused of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, and 14 counts of wire fraud.
(Editor's note: this post was updated following an initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.)