Prominent Libertarian Activist, Ian Freeman, Sentenced to Eight Years in Federal Prison for Cryptocurrency Exchange Scheme


Ian Freeman, a well-known libertarian figure and host of a syndicated radio show based in Keene, received an eight-year federal prison sentence on Monday for operating a cryptocurrency exchange business that allegedly served fraudulent activities.

This sentencing concludes a legal ordeal spanning over two years, during which Freeman, along with several co-conspirators, was apprehended for accepting large sums in cash and wire transfers. These funds were subsequently converted to cryptocurrency, with Freeman pocketing a substantial commission. Prosecutors contended that he failed to register his business properly and utilized a self-established church to shield assets from taxation.

Addressing a packed Concord courtroom, Freeman informed federal Judge Joseph Laplante that he believed he did not violate the law. He maintained that he made efforts to screen potential customers to protect them from scams, expressing regret that not all could be safeguarded.

Freeman has made multiple unsuccessful attempts to secure various political positions in the state and has been an active participant in the Free State Project, a libertarian movement advocating for people to relocate to New Hampshire. His supporters voiced their endorsement as he entered the courtroom, with many proclaiming their affection for him as the hearing concluded.

Prosecutors contended that Freeman evaded accountability for his actions, displaying a sophisticated understanding of currency regulations and deliberately misleading financial institutions to conceal his operations.

Freeman's transactions effectively positioned him as the intermediary between internet romance scammers and their victims. Prosecutors alleged that Freeman was aware that these scammers enticed unsuspecting seniors into sending money, which he then converted into bitcoin. His commission rates, which could reach as high as 21%, far surpassed those of more established exchanges like Coinbase.

The government asserted that the scammers were willing to accept these higher fees due to the anonymity provided by Freeman's exchange.

While federal sentencing guidelines supported a potential prison term exceeding 17 years, Freeman's defense advocated for a three-year sentence. Judge Laplante deviated from the guidelines, determining his own sentence based on various factors.

Judge Laplante emphasized, "There was real harm caused by his conduct."

Freeman was also fined $40,000, and a separate hearing will be held to determine the restitution he must pay to fraud victims, which could amount to millions of dollars.

Freeman's defense team contended that the government was well aware of his business activities for years before executing a raid on his home in March 2021. They argued that the delay in his arrest enabled prosecutors to build a more severe case against him.

Mark Sisti, Freeman's attorney, stated, "He certainly was a target. He was open about what he was doing. He was there for years doing it, and they could have taken him off the streets in 2017 instead of waiting as long as they did, subjecting a lot of people to a lot of pain over that time period."

Sisti confirmed plans to appeal the sentence and has already lodged an appeal against the jury's verdict with the First Circuit Court in Boston. However, Judge Laplante denied Sisti's request for Freeman to remain free on bond pending the outcome of the appeal.