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IPFS News Link • Investigations

FBI descends on Keene, 6 people facing federal charges in connection with Bitcoin

• Manchester Ink Link

Six Charged with Crimes Related to Virtual Currency Exchange Business | USAO-NH | Department of Justice

KEENE, NH – Tuesday morning, the FBI raided several properties associated with a libertarian-styled group referred to as Free Keene.

"The FBI is conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity in connection with an ongoing federal investigation at several locations in Keene, NH and the surrounding area," said Kristen M. Setera, Office of Public Affairs, FBI Boston Division in Chelsea, Mass. in an email response to an inquiry.  "At this time, there is no threat to public safety."

At about 1 p.m. the U.S. Attorney's office in Concord released the names of six people who have been indicted by a federal grand jury in New Hampshire and charged with participating in a conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business "and other offenses."

Those charged include:

Ian Freeman (formerly Ian Bernard), 40, of Keene

Colleen Fordham, 60, of Alstead

Renee Spinella, 23, of Derry

Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry

Nobody (formerly Richard Paul), 52, of Keene

Aria DiMezzo (formerly James Baker), 34, of Keene

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

According to the indictment, since 2016, the defendants have operated a business that enabled customers to exchange over $10 million in fiat currency for virtual currency (that is currency held within the blockchain network that is not controlled by a centralized banking authority such as Bitcoin) charging a fee for their service. They operated their virtual currency exchange business using websites, as well as operating virtual currency ATM machines in New Hampshire. The indictment alleges that the defendants knowingly operated the virtual currency exchange business in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws and regulations. In furtherance of their scheme, the indictment alleges that some defendants opened bank accounts in the names of purported religious entities. According to the indictment, some defendants then engaged in substantial efforts to evade detection of their unlawful virtual currency exchange scheme by avoiding answering financial institutions' questions about the nature of the business and misleading financial institutions into believing their unlawful virtual currency exchange business was instead a religious organization receiving charitable contributions.

All of the defendants were arrested during a coordinated law enforcement action on Tuesday.  They are scheduled for initial appearances before a United States Magistrate Judge on Tuesday afternoon.