• damientfisher

Updated: Apr 8

Free Keene leader Ian Freeman is arguing he’s neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community as he seeks to get out of jail pending trial on federal money laundering charges.

Meanwhile, Freeman’s Free Keene cohort and money laundering co-defendant, Nobody, needs to find a new lawyer after his attorney, John Apruzzese, asked to leave the case following an incident in which trust was lost between the two.

Freeman, 40, Nobody, 52, and four other people were arrested on March 16 when police and federal law enforcement raided the Free Keene properties Freeman controls in Keene. Law enforcement found $180,000 in cash, 26 guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his Leverett Street home, which is close to a charter middle school in Keene.

United States District Court Judge Andrea Johnston ordered Freeman held without bail pending trial stating that he is a flight risk given the millions of dollars he has in cash and crypto-currency, and that he represents a danger to the community. Johnston based the dangerousness on evidence Freeman continued to operating his alleged Bitcoin money laundering business despite being aware of the ongoing federal investigation.

Freeman’s lawyer, Mark Sisti, filed in his appeal of the detention order on Wednesday seeking to have Freeman let out of jail. Sisti writes that Freeman is not a risk to flee the country, despite the fact he has recently traveled to Japan and Mexico.

“Although he has visited foreign countries in the past few years, there is no evidence he has any contacts in those countries that would aid him should he attempt to flee,” Sisti wrote.

Freeman’s continued operation of his alleged Bitcoin money laundering business, which reportedly exchanged $10 million over the years, does not show he is a danger to the community, according to Sisti. Johnstone found evidence that Freeman was operating his allegedly fraudulent business despite knowing that he was under federal investigation.

“Government agents have identified people across the country who stated they were manipulated by scammers into sending money to the defendant, the Shire Free Church, or one of the alleged co-conspirators, often in the form of ‘church donations,’” Johnstone wrote. “As recently as March 16, 2021, the Postal Inspection Service intercepted a package addressed to the Shire Free Church, which contained $4,000 from ‘an 80-year-old victim of an apparent romance scam.’ This operation clearly poses a danger to the community by enabling fraud and economic harm.”

Sisti claims that Freeman was never told by any authority that he had to stop running his businesses and his churches.

“The Government claimed that Mr. Freeman was aware that authorities were investigating him yet continued to engage in his business. Even so, there is no evidence that he was ever ordered to cease such activities by any Court or other regulatory body. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Freeman would engage in such acts once ordered to do so,” Sisti wrote.

While Freeman, who changed his name from Ian Bernard, is having his lawyer trying to get out of jail, his fellow Free Keene associate, Nobody, who changed his name from Rich Paul, has waived his detention hearing and seems to have alienated his attorney.

Nobody’s lawyer, Apruzzese, was granted permission to withdraw from the case this week after a recent encounter with his client, according to court records. While it is unclear what exactly transpired between the two, Apruzzese indicates something was said and there is now a lack of trust between the two.

“On April 6, 2021, counsel called Nobody and spoke with him about the motion to clarify status of counsel,” Apruzzese wrote in his motion to withdraw. “Counsel read the affidavit, filed under seal, in support of the motion. Counsel mistakenly thought Nobody made statements about the co-defendant, Ian Freeman. Counsel learned that those statements were made about counsel. Counsel immediately told Nobody he could no longer represent him and he would move to withdraw.”

Freeman is charged with operating a multi-million dollar bitcoin exchange business that facilitated laundering money from scammers across the country. He even allegedly used the churches he started to launder funds as “donations,” according to court records.

Freeman, Colleen Fordham, 60, of Alstead, Renee Spinella, 23, of Derry, Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry, Nobody, of Keene, and Aria DiMezzo, 34, of Keene were all taken into custody following the raids. Only Freeman and Nobody continue to be held.

Freeman, Fordham, Renee Spinella, Andrew Spinella, and Nobody also are charged with wire fraud and participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Freeman is also charged with money laundering and operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise. Freeman and DiMezzo also are charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

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The defamation lawsuit against right-wing Internet media provocateur, Gary Michael Voris, is going forward after a federal judge denied Voris’ attempt to get the case dismissed.

Voris, who goes by Micheal Voris online, is being sued by the Rev. George de Laire, the judicial vicar for the Roman Catholic Diocese of New Hampshire. The lawsuit claims Voris published news videos and articles on his Church Militant website that contains multiple lies about de Laire. The judicial vicar also claims he had been subject to harassment and threats as a result of Voris’ lies.

The lawsuit was filed by de Laire in early February in the United States District Court in Concord. Voris responded by trying to get the suit dismissed, based partially on the fact that he is based in Michigan and therefore any lawsuit ought to be filed in that state.

Voris did not deny he made the defamatory statements in his legal arguments, but instead claimed that New Hampshire is not the proper location for the lawsuit, according to court records. United States District Court Judge Joseph DiClerico found in an order issued on April 1 that the lawsuit is rooted in the Granite State and can go forward in New Hampshire.

“In this case, the defendants targeted de Laire, a resident of New Hampshire, the pastor of a parish in New Hampshire, and a vicar in the Diocese of Manchester,” DiClerico wrote. “Their interest in de Laire arose from de Laire’s professional activities, as a vicar, with the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire. The defendants’ allegedly defamatory communications pertained to de Laire’s duties as a vicar and his duties as a priest and can be construed to have been intended to harm him in New Hampshire, as well as outside New Hampshire.”

The lawsuit states that Voris started his campaign against de Laire in January of 2019 after the diocese barred the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from calling themselves Catholic and put the group under discipline.

The Slaves are considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Slaves appealed the discipline laid out in a Decree of Precepts of Prohibition written by de Laire, but the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome rejected that appeal last year because it was filed after the statute of limitations had run out. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is the Vatican governing body that defends Catholic teaching from heresy and has previously dealt with the Slaves.

Voris and his Church Militant company started covering the issue after the precepts were published, and the diocese advised Catholics in good standing to stay away from the Slaves. Voris, who is based in Michigan, even traveled to New Hampshire to interview members of the Slaves at their compound in Richmond. Voris did not interview de Laire or any priest in the diocese as part of his reporting, according to the lawsuit.

“In an initial article, published in January of 2019, Mr. Voris published multiple knowingly and recklessly false statements concerning Father de Laire’s work performance, his fitness to serve as a member of the clergy, his ethics, and other personal matters. These statements were first published in January of 2019 with no attempt to first interview Father de Laire, with little or no investigation, and despite Defendants knowing that what they were publishing was not true,” the lawsuit states.

In subsequent videos and articles, Voris and Church Militant would claim de Laire is not trusted by other priests in the diocese, that he does not do his own work, and that there have been at least three complaints filed against him. The articles also claim de Laire in known to be incompetent by Catholic officials in the Vatican. According to the lawsuit, none of these assertions is true.

“As with all other of the statements in the article, Mr. Voris did not cite a source for this statement, and, upon information and belief, his allegation was fabricated and not corroborated by anyone in Rome, as Father de Laire has always completed all of his work with utmost competence, once again, as evidence by his reappointment to his roles as Judicial Vicar and Vicar for Canonical Affairs,” the lawsuit states.

Voris’s response filed in court repeats the allegedly defamatory statements he made in the videos. In his response, Voris claims that he cannot be sued in New Hampshire, as neither he nor Church Militant reporter Anita Carey interviewed any sources in New Hampshire who provided the alleged defamatory comments. Voris did come to New Hampshire to interview members of the St. Benedict Center community, but only after Church Militant published the first article, according to Voris’ response.

Voris' motion to dismiss the case, filed last month, also claims he cannot be sued for defamation for repeating the alleged defamatory statements in subsequent articles, citing an unusual legal precedent for the conservative Catholic media mini-mogul:

"Although de Laire contends that the April 15, 2019 video story repeated the allegedly defamatory comments from the January 17, 2019 story, New Hampshire does not recognize a claim for defamation based on 'republication' of allegedly defamatory statements. Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 131 N.H. 6, 8 (1988)." Voris' response states.

Church Militant is politically conservative, likening former President Donald Trump to Emperor Constantine, and it is also known for it’s near “obsessive” focus on homosexuality in society at large and within the Catholic Church, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Church Militant focuses on homosexuality with an intensity and frequency bordering on obsessive,” the SPLC report states.

Voris admits to being in homosexual relationships in his 20s and 30s, until he experienced a religious and seeming sexual epiphany.

Voris has also been criticized for his opinions on Jewish people. He claims that Judaism as it is currently practiced is not real Judaism, and is instead a manmade creation. This helped get him banned from speaking at a Pennsylvania diocese in 2011. His home diocese of Detroit ordered Voris to stop publicly using the word Catholic in this company name, and he changed the name from Real Catholic TV to Church Militant.

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Updated: Apr 2

The co-owner of a Bedford IT firm pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking part in a scheme to steal a quarter of a million dollars from the U.S. Marine Corps to fund home renovations.

James A. McDonald, who at the time was co-owner of Namtek, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in the bribery scheme involving at least two public officials and a North Carolina contractor, according to court records.

Starting in 2008, McDonald conspired with two public officials, who are unnamed in the complaint filed in court, to get a $32 million contract for Namtek to perform IT services at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to the complaint.

McDonald agreed to hire William Thompson, a contractor, as a subcontractor for the work, though Thompson did not perfume anything within the scope of the IT project. Instead of doing construction for the IT firm, Thompson was allegedly doing home renovations for Public Official 1.

“On or about August 28, 2008, prior to the award of the USMC contract to Namtek, McDonald submitted a quote to Public Official 1 for construction-related work to be completed by (Thompson’s construction company) C&D at Camp Lejeune. The following day, Public Official 2 directed McDonald to add specific language to the quote in order to give the appearance that the work described in the quote was within the scope of the IT services contract,” the complaint states.

The public officials directed McDonald to pay close to $250,000 in invoices to Thompson for work he supposedly did under the contract. During the life of Namtek’s contract with the USMC, from 2008 to 2011, the company billed more than $26 million to the government, according to the complaint.

Thompson was sentenced earlier this year to his role in the scheme. After being contacted by FBI agents in March of 2018 about the investigation, Thompson texted Public Official 1 and McDonald to alert them, according to a Department of Justice statement. He then deleted the texts. He was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison on an obstruction of justice conviction.

McDonald started the company in 2006 with partner, Keith Turgeon, a veteran. The company reported $500,000 in sales in the first year by focusing in federal contacts. Turgeon did not reposed to a request for comment.

McDonald is due back in court on July 20 for his sentencing hearing.

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