MANCHESTER, NH – The day after the FBI arrested six New Hampshire residents in connection with a multi-million-dollar cryptocurrency operation, a bitcoin automated teller machine located at a former Republican state representative’s downtown bar ceased operation.
The cryptocurrency vending machine (CVM) was installed at Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St., on Jan. 18, 2016, according to coinatmradar.com. As of Monday, it had been out of operation for five days.
Murphy’s is owned by Keith Murphy of Bedford, a former state representative for Hillsborough County, District 7. Email and telephone messages left for Murphy were not returned.
Kristen Setera, spokesman for the Boston office of the FBI, was asked if the FBI seized the bitcoin ATM.
“It’s an ongoing investigation and the defendant’s cases are pending before the court,” she said in an email. “Because of that, I’m going to decline further comment and refer you to the US Attorney’s office.”
A message left for Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Aframe, a lead prosecutor in the case, went unanswered.
On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, FBI agents searched several properties in Keene, all linked to the libertarian-leaning activist group Free Keene.
Properties searched are located at 661 Marlboro Road and 659 Marlboro Road, which is owned by Shire Free Church Holdings LLC, according to property records. A business called Bitcoin Embassy N.H. is located at 661 Marlboro Road. Bitcoin Embassy NH is the business that installed the CVM at Murphy’s, according to coinatm.radar.com.
Bitcoin Embassy NH had three CVMs – one at its headquarters, another at My Campus Convenience in Keene and the other at Murphy’s.
On March 16, 2021, the FBI also searched My Campus Convenience, 152 Winchester St. An employee told a reporter for the Keene Sentinel that agents removed its Bitcoin ATM.
That day, the FBI also searched My Campus Convenience at 152 Winchester St. store, which along with Bitcoin Embassy NH, had a CVM. An employee told a reporter for the Keene Sentinel that agents removed its Bitcoin ATM.
Ian Freeman, 40, formerly Ian Benard, of Keene, the head of Free Keene, remains jailed. U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge Andrea Johnstone ordered him temporarily detained, pending her decision on bail. She took the issued under advisement after an hour-long hearing last Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord. As of late Monday, she had yet to issue a ruling.
In last week’s search of Freeman’s Leverett Street home in Keene, investigators recovered $180,000 in cash, 26 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Freeman is accused of heading a multi-million dollar bitcoin exchange business laundering money for people from across the country. Churches he started were used as fronts to launder money, money labeled donations, according to court documents.
A federal prosecutor, in asking a judge to order Freeman held without bail, said he had access to at least $2.4 million in bitcoin.
Also arrested were Colleen Fordham, 60, of Alstead, Renee Spinella, 23, of Derry, Andrew Spinella, 35, of Derry, Nobody (formerly Richard Paul), 52, of Keene and Aria DiMezzo, 34, of Keene.
Freeman, Fordham, the Spinellas and Nobody are charged with wire fraud and participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Freeman is also charged with money laundering and operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise. Freeman and DiMezzo also are charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.
According to the indictment, for the past five years the defendants operated a business enabling customers to exchange more than $10 million in government-issued money for virtual currency, charging a fee for their service. They operated their virtual currency exchange business using websites and virtual currency ATM machines in New Hampshire.
UPDATE: Murphy responded to Manchester Ink Link by noting his only connection to the ATM was allowing the company to place it in the lobby of his restaurant. He says he is not under investigation regarding the allegations surrounding the Free Keene group and he has not been charged with a crime.