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3 plead guilty to operating fraudulent digital asset business, DOJ says

The U.S. attorney’s office announced that three New Hampshire citizens pleaded guilty to wire fraud. The fraudsters operated using church accounts in order to help their “co-defendant,” Ian Freeman, authorities said.

According to U.S. Attorney John J. Farley, the group “opened and operated accounts at financial institutions as personal accounts in their names or as business accounts in the names of churches.”

The three—Andrew and Renee Spinella from Derry, and “Nobody,” also known as Richard Paul from Keene—admitted virtual currency-related fraudulent activities. Simply put, they were helping Freeman to sell digital assets via an exchange while operating as personal accounts and churches.

On April 12, Andrew Spinella, 36, pleaded guilty to “opening personal accounts in his name for Freeman to use to sell virtual currency.” According to the news release, he provided login credentials and blank checks for Freeman.

Two days later, Reene Spinella, 24, also pleaded guilty to creating “a business account in the name of Crypto Church of NH [New Hampshire]” while saying “the bank was an international ministry.” Per the attorney, Reene opened the account for “church donations”; however, it was used to allow Freeman to exchange digital currencies.

Meanwhile, “Nobody,” aka Richard Paul, 53, pleaded guilty to opening “accounts in his name and in the name of the Church of the Invisible Hand,” with the same intentions to assist Freeman’s digital assets exchange business.

The Tri-City Herald reported that the group might be responsible for exchanging around $10 million worth of digital currencies. According to the news release, the group has been operating from 2016 to 2021 with two other co-defendants, making it a group of six. The three pleaded guilty are scheduled to be sentenced in July, while Freeman and the two others will go to trial in November.

“Andrew and Renee Spinella, along with Nobody, confessed to opening and operating bank accounts, using their names or the names of religious organizations, to help their co-defendant run his virtual currency business,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, FBI Special Agent of the Boston Division, said.

Freeman is, according to the New York Mag, a Keene-based libertarian activist, and an early BTC adopter who could have been one of the top digital currency billionaires if he wasn’t “hawking cryptocurrency less for the money and more for the libertarian ideals he believes it represents.”

“The whole point of this mission is to give people the opportunity to get out of the dollar,” Freeman told NY Mag. “The government money is evil, and this money isn’t,” he added.

Watch: CoinGeek New York panel, Investigating Criminal Activity on the Blockchain

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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