CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday heard from multiple women who said they were victimized by a New Hampshire man's unlicensed bitcoin exchange business but postponed a sentencing hearing in the case to evaluate whether restitution is appropriate.
Prosecutors said Ian Freeman, a libertarian activist and radio show host, created a business that catered to fraudsters who targeted elderly women with romance scams, serving as “the final step in permanently separating the victims from their money.”
After a two-week trial, he was convicted of eight charges in December, though his conviction on a money laundering charge was later overturned. He was scheduled to be sentenced on the remaining charges, which include operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and conspiracy to commit money laundering, on Monday but the hearing was delayed until next month.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante said the delay was necessary to give Freeman’s attorneys a chance to object to the prosecution’s push to make restitution part of the sentence. Prosecutors also argue he should get a harsher sentence because victims, many of them elderly, were particularly vulnerable.
While the issue of whether those who sent money to Freeman should be considered victims remains unsettled, two of them read letters in court Monday and a third participated by video remotely.
Karen Miller, of Florida, described herself as a lonely widow who got scammed by a man she met on a dating site. At his instruction, she sent $300,000 to Freeman, wiping out her life’s savings. Another woman, Rebecca Viar, told a similar story of taking out three loans and selling her late husband’s truck to send money to the man who duped her.
“My life and countless lives have been ruined financially and emotionally,” she said. She called Freeman “an ugly hearted person” and said her ability to trust others has been forever damaged.
Freeman has been free on bail pending his appeal and sentencing. Supporters who packed the courtroom Monday gave him a raucous standing ovation when he entered the room.