Ian Freeman Sentenced to Eight Years In Bitcoin Money Laundering Scheme In “Church of the Invisible Hand” Case

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Ian Freeman Sentenced to Eight Years In Bitcoin Money Laundering Scheme In “Church of the Invisible Hand” Case

In October 2023, the US Department of Justice announced that Ian Freeman was sentenced to eight years for his laundering over USD 10 million in proceeds from scams and fraud. Freeman, who was convicted by a federal jury on December 22, 2022, was ordered to pay restitution to the victims of fraud. Given that Freeman was not directly involved in the scams, but rather the laundering of the proceeds, the order of restitution was significant.

“Ian Freeman catered to fraudsters. He played a shell game with other people’s hard-earned money, turned a blind eye to the scam artists who were ripping them off, and walked away with millions, depriving their victims of their life’s savings. Today’s sentence is a significant step toward justice for the dozens of victims all over the country who have suffered significant financial losses and heartbreak as a result of this man’s criminal conduct,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division in the press release.

The jury found that Freeman laundered over ten million dollars in proceeds of romance scams and other internet frauds by exchanging U.S. dollars for bitcoin through a network of bitcoin ATMs or kiosks. Freeman, who disabled the “know-your-customer” features on the bitcoin kiosks, was also convicted of failing to register his business with the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as required by law. By subverting anti-money laundering controls Freeman created a business that catered to fraudsters and, by charging exorbitant fees for his laundering services, he made more than a million dollars.

Records and exhibits in the 10-day trial proved that as part of the conspiracy, 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. 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.  

TRM graph showing the movement of funds from fraud victim accounts through a Freeman controlled wallet to cash out points

This case was an example of close coordination and collaboration across law enforcement including efforts by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire prosecuted the case with support from DOJ’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team and Tax Division. 

For a deep dive on this case listen to Decrypt Media and TRM's "true crypto crime podcast" Crime 3 on the "Church of the Invisible Hand" here.

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