“Bitcoin Launderer Fined $3.5 Million by Court Order”

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In April 2023, libertarian activist and radio show host Ian Freeman was photographed outside the federal courthouse in Concord, New Hampshire. He was convicted of using bitcoin to launder tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from romance scams and internet fraud. Now, a judge has ordered him to pay over $3.5 million in restitution to 29 victims, primarily elderly individuals.

Freeman’s scheme involved using several churches to receive money from victims under the guise of donations, before converting it into cryptocurrency. The assets he must forfeit as restitution include 5.24 bitcoin, currently valued at over $258,000, and $1.1 million in U.S. currency.

The 43-year-old, who had long promoted bitcoin as an alternative to the U.S. dollar, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in October 2021. He was also fined $40,000. Prosecutors revealed that Freeman earned over $1 million through his business, which he had not registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as legally required.

U.S. Attorney Jane Young stated, “Ian Freeman’s money laundering business caused many vulnerable people unnecessary anguish.” She expressed gratitude that the prosecution team was able to make many of the victims financially whole, but acknowledged that nothing could fully erase the pain caused by Freeman’s actions.

According to Young’s office, Freeman and his co-conspirators opened and operated accounts at financial institutions in the names of various churches, including the Shire Free Church, the Church of the Invisible Hand, the Crypto Church of New Hampshire, and the NH Peace Church. He also instructed bitcoin customers, often victims of scams, to lie about their deposits and describe them as church donations. Additionally, Freeman failed to pay taxes on his income and concealed it from the IRS from 2016 to 2019.

During the trial, jurors were shown a folder on Freeman’s computer containing images of victims of the romance scams, many of whom were older women. One victim, Karen Miller, told the judge at Freeman’s sentencing that she had been scammed by a man she met on a dating site who instructed her to send $300,000 to Freeman. Another victim, Rebecca Vicar, took out multiple loans and sold her husband’s truck to send money to Freeman.

In a 2021 New York magazine profile, published while Freeman was out on bond, he was asked on his radio show “Free Talk Live” if he would have done anything differently had he known he would face criminal charges. He replied, “Is there something I regret? I mean, of course not. This is my mission. I’ve been given this mission from God to get this alternative form of value into people’s hands.”

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