Ian Freeman believes that as a minister for the Shire Free Church in Keene, New Hampshire, he is a force for creating a more peaceful and just world. He believes that using and selling bitcoin is a major part of his ministry. As he said on a recent episode of his nationally syndicated radio show Free Live Chat“I felt called to fulfill this mission, to spread peace, and ultimately what bitcoin does is undermine a war-mongering state. The more dollars that go out of circulation, the more power that state loses.”
Freeman—not her birth name—moved from Florida to New Hampshire in 2006 as an early participant in the Free State Project (FSP) because she wanted to help create a political union that respected the freedom of its citizens (she’s nobody). longer with the organization). FSP made many strides in New Hampshire, and Freeman’s early advocacy efforts helped make Keene, NH a major hub for retail bitcoin trading.
But Freeman still lives in a nation that sees the freedom to use whatever currency it wants peacefully as something that justifies a five-year multi-agency investigation into a gang of armed agents invading your home. dark before dawn, throwing grenades, destroying your security cameras, breaking windows and frames with an arm outstretched from a BearCat G3 armored car, and then locking you in a cage.
All of this was basically because Freeman didn’t follow federal procedures to do what he did or give the government what he thought was a fair cut of any income he earned. When the feds raided Freeman’s home on March 16, 2021, they took about $180,000 in cash, some precious metals, and various computers.
Five of Freeman’s associates were also arrested and charged in separate raids that day, but after various allegations and one charge being dropped, Freeman was the only person to stand trial for the crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this month. Freeman spent 69 days in jail after his arrest while the government tried to claim he was a flight risk, resulting in a $200,000 bond. The government, he said in an email this week, has put him in a “tracking ring that will detect if I leave my property….Spyware on my computer and phone. Restrictions on not being able to use cryptocurrency at all. People I can’t contact… Restrictions on my The church has destroyed my ability to help local businesses adopt cryptocurrency, which is a core part of my mission.”
The original indictment against Freeman and his friends insisted that they “exchanged more than $10,000,000 in virtual currency.”
Last week, a federal jury in New Hampshire found Freeman guilty of all charges. As Freeman’s attorney, Mark Sisti, explained in a phone interview this week, 17 of the 25 charges are pending trial, many related to bank fraud and wire fraud; Sisti realized it would be difficult for the feds to convict them because, among other reasons, Freeman’s actions “didn’t harm the banks.”
However, Freeman was convicted “on all counts of money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, operating an unlicensed money transfer business, and tax evasion (four counts),” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.
Because of the government’s general obsession with tracking every financial move we make, the government was concerned that Freeman wasn’t keeping sufficient records and monitoring of its clients in accordance with its rules. As the DOJ changed its position in a press release, “by failing to register its business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as required by law, by disabling “know your customer” features at its bitcoin kiosks, and by ensuring that bitcoin customers did not tell it what they did with their bitcoins, other among other things, Freeman created a business that caters to scammers.
Although he insisted he did not knowingly harm anyone who sold bitcoins through LocalBitcoins and a number of local bitcoin kiosks, the feds brought to the stand what they believed to be various victims of Freeman’s actions during the trial. Some scammers sent their victims dollars to Freeman, who converted them into bitcoins, which were then sent to the scammers, making it harder for them to trace the scam/crime.
Freeman claims in an email that he implemented his own version of “know your customer” (KYC) practices after learning that some fraudsters were using his service. “Typical requirements are for the person to show ID and take a selfie with a handwritten note saying something like ‘I’m buying such and such bitcoin from FTL_Ian at localbitcoins.com.’ With these and other experiences, including sometimes making phone calls to recipients, he notes, he “felt that banks were doing more than asking them to send money orders or cash deposits, but [the banks from which the scam victims sent the money to Freeman] has never been prosecuted for ‘aiding’ fraudsters.”
“The irony is,” Freeman says, “my KYC records were used against me at trial. They didn’t know who these people were before the feds raided my home, and then they got their information from my personal computer. I didn’t know they were there. They were victims of fraud.”
As noted by both of Freeman’s blogging partners, the trial’s twists and turns and a Keene Sentinel According to the reporter, the state was unable to get any of these victims to say or prove on the stand that Freeman had knowingly deceived them (including a fake romantic interest against the scammer’s claims that he would help the victim with matters related to Social Security payments). they were convinced that they had been deceived. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Aframe, the prosecutor on the case, tried to get the jury to see it as Freeman’s “willful blindness.” But the government’s claim in the case is that “the government does not allege that Freeman colluded with these fraudsters to launder the proceeds.”
“Obviously Ian wasn’t a fraud,” insists Sisti. “It’s as simple as that. He’s not a scammer. Their argument is that scammers used his platform and him to perpetuate their money-making scam.”
Freeman’s connection to the undercover agent, accused of money laundering, is because Freeman refused to do business with him directly after the agent revealed that Freeman was a drug dealer. That agent then used one of Freeman’s kiosks to convert the cash into bitcoin. Freeman insists he didn’t know or encourage the man to do it, and said on the stand in court, “What was I supposed to do? I fought him? We don’t have anybody there,” guarding the booth to make sure no culprits used it. .
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has insisted for years that even peer-to-peer bitcoin sellers are under its purview, and bitcoin kiosks have long been targeted by the DOJ. As Freeman said in an email, “My arrest was one of many similar arrests across the country over several years. I have a higher profile than some of these people, but the pattern is the same. They target a peaceful bitcoin seller. They didn’t hurt anyone and then hit him with so many accusations that he’s filing a lawsuit.” Freeman thinks it’s part of a “really ugly picture of the federal government’s relentless, relentless attack on the crypto industry.”
But Freeman’s motion to dismiss the charges he previously joined in the case alleges that FinCEN overstepped its legal authority by trying to make Freeman’s bitcoin sales illegal.
“The statute at issue in this case did not allow a federal agency to regulate those engaged in the transfer or exchange of virtual currency. Virtual currency, now a multi-trillion dollar part of the economy, did not even exist at the time. The statute was passed,” the motion said, further claiming that Supreme The court’s doctrine insists that “regulatory agencies cannot be empowered to regulate broad and important sectors of the American economy by a word or two in a statute. FinCEN had no right to assume that a word in a 2001 law in 2008 predicted the invention of virtual currency and gave a federal agency full authority to regulate what has become a trillion-dollar sector of the American economy.
Freeman’s lawyer, Sisti, insists that the verdict will be appealed, although he was not ready to discuss the specific grounds. However, he noted that a move that denies FinCEN statutory power could lead to a possible line of legal attack.
Freeman’s sentencing is scheduled for April, prosecutor Aframe said Keene Sentinel It could land Freeman behind bars for more than eight years. Freeman is currently in jail, although he has surrendered his passport and is under electronic surveillance, both in person and on his computer, pending sentencing and a possible appeal.
Freeman hopes his conviction will be overturned. But still, he knows, “The dinosaur wasn’t going to get into the tar pits without a little beating around the bush. Someone was going to get hurt in the process of marketing a potential dollar killer.”