New Hampshire U.S. Attorney Jane Young said the Dec. 22 federal conviction of Keene resident Ian Freeman for his role in a money-laundering scam adds to the growing problem.
“The culture of Internet fraud has become a pervasive societal problem,” Young said in a written statement. “By hiding their tracks, including the money trail, these fraudsters get away with their crimes, often victimizing our most vulnerable citizens.”
Prosecutors said Freeman laundered the proceeds of fraudulent Internet transactions by exchanging U.S. dollars for bitcoin, a type of digital currency backed by computer code rather than a central banking authority.
“Money launderers like Ian Freeman are the ones who help hide the money for these fraudsters,” Young said.
Jurors found Freeman guilty of all felony charges he faced: operating an unlicensed money transfer business, money laundering and tax evasion, as well as conspiracy charges related to the money laundering and unlicensed money transfer allegations. The trial is set for April 14.
“Today’s swift sentencing sends a strong message that this type of money laundering will not be tolerated,” Young said. “Deterring fraudsters by disrupting their methods of covering their tracks is an important federal goal. This follow-up is an important step to achieve this goal.”
The trial included witnesses who said they were victims of “romance scams” in which someone online took an interest in them and convinced them to send them money.
“As a member of this criminal conspiracy, Mr. Freeman unwittingly used the victims’ emotions and bank accounts to line his own pockets,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said in a written statement. .
For his part, Freeman testified that he never knowingly helped a scammer and tried to protect people from scams when he suspected them.
In a February news release, the state attorney general’s office said “romance scammers often use fake identities to troll online dating and social media sites.”
“These scammers often target single individuals, including the recently divorced or widowed,” the office said. “They sympathize with the victim by pretending they share common interests or circumstances. Fraudsters obtain this information through the victim’s public social media accounts, as well as other online resources such as obituaries.”
The AG’s office said typically those involved in romance scams:
- Submit too much personal information quickly.
- Recruit victims from a rush-dating website or social media to communicate through other means such as text or email.
- Use poor spelling and grammar.
- Make an excuse as to why you can’t meet in person.
- Say they live or travel outside the United States
- Pretend you’re stranded abroad and need money to get home.
- Search for gift cards, cell phones or cryptocurrency.
- Pretend you need money to get millions of dollars in funding.
A man who testified at Freeman’s trial said he lost thousands of dollars because he trusted someone who convinced him to move his money around, saying his Social Security account had been hijacked.
This is another common Internet scam, the AG’s office said:
“They may ask to verify the victim’s Social Security number, or they may say they need to withdraw money from the victim’s bank and keep it in gift cards or other unusual methods for ‘safekeeping.’ Victims may be told that if they do not act quickly, their accounts will be suspended or frozen.”
Another common scam involves people claiming to be technicians who will repair your PC and asking you to pay for unnecessary services.
There are also “grandparent scams,” where a scammer contacts an older adult and pretends to be a family member or someone calling on behalf of a family member. Callers are told that a family member is in danger and needs money urgently.
On Dec. 9, Elvis Guzman, 45, of Albany, New York, was sentenced to at least five years in NH State Prison for his role in 2020 “grandparent” scams, including defrauding a Keene man.
According to the FBI’s 2021 Cyber Crime Report, a record 847,376 cybercrime complaints were filed by the public with the FBI, a 7 percent increase over 2020.
The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a National Elder Fraud Hotline for people over 60 who are suspected of fraud: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).
Also, the NH Bureau of Aging and Senior Services maintains a hotline at 1-800-949-0470 for anyone who knows that a vulnerable adult has been defrauded or financially exploited.
Fraud can also be reported at the Federal Trade Commission’s website: reportfraud.ftc.gov. The NH Attorney General’s Office also provides a toll-free consumer protection hotline at 1-888-468-4454.
This article is shared by partners at the Granite State News Collaborative. Visit for more information collaborativenh.org.