Bitcoin Money Launderer, Who Used Fake Churches as False Fronts in Romance Scams, Ordered to Pay Over $3.5M to Elderly Victims

By Jace Dela Cruz

Feb 14, 2024 01:25 AM EST

A New Hampshire libertarian activist and radio host, Ian Freeman, who was found guilty of using bitcoin to launder tens of millions of dollars from romance scams and internet fraud, has been ordered to pay over $3.5 million in restitution to 29 primarily elderly victims.

According to CNBC, Freeman, part of a group called "Crypto Six," received the verdict in October. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $40,000. He was also instructed to forfeit assets, including 5.24 bitcoin valued at over $258,000 and $1.1 million in US currency.

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Bitcoin Money Launderer Commits the 'Worst Kind of Crime'

Prosecutors, who characterized Ian Freeman's actions as "the worst kind of crime," said he exchanged dollars for bitcoin, charging excessive fees, and failed to register his business as required by law.

With Freeman's lawyer expressing satisfaction with the restitution order and emphasizing that the assets forfeited would cover the $3.5 million with "no problem," CNBC reported that they now plan to focus on appealing the conviction.

During the trial, evidence revealed Freeman's involvement in romance scams targeting older women, with some victims losing substantial amounts. 

According to CNBC, prosecutors noted that Freeman knowingly facilitated the laundering of victims' money into Bitcoin, making it irretrievable.

"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," the office of US Attorney for the District of New Hampshire Jane Young said in a statement.

"Freeman instructed bitcoin customers, who were often victims of scams, to lie to the financial institutions and describe their deposits as church donations. From 2016 to 2019, he paid no taxes, and concealed his income from the Internal Revenue Service," the office added.

READ NEXT: Colorado Pastor, Who Launches Crypto Venture After God Allegedly Told Him, Now Accused of Pocketing $1.3M From His Followers 

Financial Impact of the Bitcoin Scams

Victims testified to the financial impact of the scams. One victim claimed that she lost her life savings after a man she met on a dating site told her to send $300,000 to Ian Freeman, while another took out three loans and sold her husband's truck to send money to the scammer in a similar scheme.

Freeman's co-defendants, Andrew and Renee Spinella and Richard Paul, pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud and received varying jail sentences, ranging from one day to up to 18 months.

On the other hand, the fourth defendant, Aria DeMezzo, has pleaded guilty to one count of an unlicensed money-transmitting business and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Despite his conviction, Freeman remained steadfast in his mission to promote bitcoin, asserting that his actions were part of a divine purpose to introduce an alternative form of value to people. 

READ MORE: US SEC Approves Spot Bitcoin ETFs a Day After Its 'Hacked' X Account Prematurely Shared Such News

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