Six people were arrested in FBI raids in New Hampshire Tuesday as part of a crackdown on an allegedly unlicensed cryptocurrency exchange business based in Keene, authorities said.
Federal prosecutors say the New Hampshire residents operated a virtual currency exchange, in which people exchange cryptocurrency like Bitcoin for fiat currency like the U.S. dollar, but did so in violation of federal laws and rules that prevent money laundering. Some of the accused allegedly tried to hide the scheme as a religious institution.
Some of the accused “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,” according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire’s Office.
All six of the people arrested in coordinated raids in Keene, Manchester, Nashua, Derry and Alstead face conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business charges, prosecutors said. Some are facing wire fraud, money laundering and financial crimes charges.
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Among the people arrested were Keene residents Nobody, who tried to run for mayor in 2019, and Aria DiMezzo, a Libertarian who secured the Republican nomination for sheriff of Cheshire County last year as a Satanist anarchist, according to The Boston Globe. DiMezzo lost in the general election.
Also arrested were Ian Freeman, a 40-year-old from Keene; Colleen Fordham, a 60-year-old from Alstead; and Renee Spinella, 23, and Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry, prosecutors said.
It wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys who could speak to the charges; they were due to appear before a federal judge Tuesday afternoon.
Their cryptocurrency exchange business, which wasn’t named in a news release, started in 2016 and has exchanged over $10 million for virtual currency, prosecutors said.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have been gaining value in recent years as people find new ways to use them, as well as because of speculating on an expanding market. Their value is derived from their scarcity — a set amount of Bitcoins exist, for example — and the transparency they provide, since each transaction is recorded on a public ledger called the blockchain.
But the regulatory status of cryptocurrency remains in flux.