Ian Freeman, a New Hampshire man in his 40s, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for running an unlicensed bitcoin exchange business. He will also be fined at least $40,000, although the exact amount still has to be determined in a hearing. The Associated Press reports: Ian Freeman was taken away in handcuffs following his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Concord. Prosecutors said 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." Freeman, who is in his 40s, said in court he did not believe he broke the law. He said he was trying to get people to adopt bitcoin. He said there were times he detected fraud and protected many potential scam victims. He apologized for not being able to help them all. "I don't want people to be taken advantage of," said Freeman, who said he cooperated with law enforcement to help some people get their money back.
Freeman said he devised a series of questions for customers, including whether a third party was putting them up to their transactions or if they were under duress. Some victims lied about their circumstances, he said. Freeman also said he didn't learn about scam victims until he saw their stories in the news. "It didn't matter how strict I was or how many questions I asked," he said. After a two-week trial, he was convicted of eight charges in December, although his conviction on a money laundering charge was later overturned by the judge. The prosecution is appealing it to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
Freeman was sentenced on the remaining charges, which include operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud. Freeman's lawyers said they planned to appeal and asked that he remain free on bail for now, but U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante didn't allow it. The sentencing guidelines called for much longer term, ranging from about 17 years to nearly 22 years in prison.