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Judge likely to release Freeman

Federal Judge Joseph Laplante said Monday he is likely to release jail Free Keene leader Ian Freeman, as long as the accused money launderer puts up a hefty security among other provisions.

“Give the COVID condition, I’m not convinced detention is the right answer,” Laplante said.

Freeman has been held since his March arrest in Keene when federal agents raided his home and businesses associated with his bitcoin businesses, charging five other people of being part of a multi-millions money laundering scheme.

Last month, Judge Andrea Johnstone ruled that Freeman was a potential flight risk given the substantial amounts of money he has in cash and bitcoin, more than $1.6 million according to court records. She also ruled he presented a danger to the community as he continued to engage in scam transactions up to his arrest, according to court records.

Freeman appealed Johnstone’s ruling, and while Laplante said his fellow judge was correct, he 4th there are conditions that can be set to allow Freeman out of jail. Laplante wants a large amount of money or property put up as a security, he wants Freeman to surrender his passport and not leave the state, he is open to some form of electronic monitoring, and he wants to have no contact lists for Freeman. The prosecution and defense have until Thursday to submit their proposals for Freeman’s potential release.

Freeman, 40, Colleen Fordham, 60, of Alstead, Renee Spinella, 23, of Derry, Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry, Nobody, 52, formerly Rich Paul, of Keene, and Aria DiMezzo, 34, of Keene were all taken into custody during the March raids. Only Freeman and Nobody remain in custody, Nobody has waived his right to a bench trial.

Assistant United States Attorney Georgina MacDonald said the government has identified 50 to 100 victims of Freeman’s scheme, and there are likely hundreds more. Part of the scheme had Freeman taking money from the victims of scams, and then then he converted the cash into bitcoin that the scammers took, according to MacDonald. One 80 year-old woman sent Freeman thousands of dollars the week he was arrested on instruction from the man scamming her through a romance scam, according to MacDonald.

Freeman was known to charge a higher transaction fee than other, legitimate bitcoin sellers, and he did not keep proper records that would allow federal agents and banks to identify his customers, according to MacDonald. He allegedly hid his transactions as donations through his various churches, and had contracts with other people to operate churches and church bank accounts on his behalf, in order to get around bank security, MacDonald said.

Freeman’s attorney, Mark Sisti, said his client followed all of the laws when it comes to selling bitcoin. Sisti pointed out an email exchange between his client and a reported drug dealer in which Freeman refused to sell the drug dealer bitcoin. Sisti said Freeman refused a $20,000 transaction once he knew about the criminal enterprise.

MacDonald noted that Freeman told the drug dealer via text and email that he could not knowingly sell the man bitcoin, typing the word knowingly in all caps. When the drug dealer asked if he could use one of Freeman’s bitcoin vending machines, like the one at Murphy’s Taproom, Freeman was coy, according to MacDonald.

“I can’t tell you not to do that,” Freeman wrote to the drug dealer.

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