Folksy, soft-spoken, almost bland in demeanor… Randall Lord does not seem the kind of poster child Washington would choose for a Federal case. But on August 10, Lord says he will have to choose between an expected 46-month prison sentence that begins at his local Marshals’ office… or one which starts at the Fed Bureau of Prisons in Georgia. And this case, like most Fed financial cases, comes with its share of disturbing moves on the part of authorities and press-titutes.
Lord’s alleged crime is: “conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money service business” (oh the humanity). In other words, he was reportedly selling too much Bitcion. What makes this case even more interesting is that, even according to Washington, Lord did register with FinCEN, the Fed bureau which collects information about financial transactions. Lord’s claim differs from Washington’s in that he says he registered in a timely manner; D.C. says he registered late. But Lord has a more Keynesian explanation:
“The Feds are afraid of losing control of our currency,” he says, communicating to Crypto Insider via e-mail, “and that ability to track your every move, especially financial.”
Lord says months after registering online in 2014, he received a notice from Coinbase claiming an inability to find the registration. And that is, apparently, about to cost him nearly four years of life.
The Libertarian Party has denounced the prison sentence of its 2014 congressional candidate Randall Lord
Lord’s interest in Bitcoin dates back to the days when it was relatively easy to mine, and mine it he did. His fascination with it was ideological. Lord was twice a Libertarian Party candidate for Congress. For those uninitiated in the American political/judicial system, that means he didn’t have any real chance of actually being in Congress, which is dominated by the generally-indistinguishable Republicans and Democrats. In a similar sense, the outcomes of Federal cases are rarely decided by trial; defendants generally make a plea bargain (as was the case here). Washington judges tend to severely punish anyone who tries to exercise their mostly-theoretical right to trial.
Thus it is that Lord plead guilty to the conspiracy charge, one of 14 counts with which they besieged him… none claiming anyone was harmed. But what the government does claim is enlightening, perhaps closer to infuriating.
“HSI is committed to dismantling and disrupting the flow of illegal drugs and money into our country,” says Special Agent Raymond Parmer, quoted in a Fed news release. That stands for Homeland Security Investigations, part of the the bureaucracy which was supposed to go after terrorists but now does patdowns on three-year-olds and, apparently, draconian punishments of harmless wealth-creators.
Looking closer at what the policy enforcer just said: The drug reference is directed against Lord’s son, who the Feds say plead guilty to a count of conspiring to distribute alprazolam illegally. The governments’ own documents seem to state that it does not believe Randall Lord himself was involved with drugs. But why is the official concerned that illegal money is flowing into the country? That’s like being concerned about illegal air flowing into your lungs. It’s reminiscent of Orwell’s fictional Oceania, whose government focused much of its effort on expending wealth before average people could get it and become uppity.
Also disturbing were statements in the local press. Media coverage from the Shreveport ABC affiliate reads more like an imperial news release than a news article… reporting Federal allegations – and at least one apparent falsehood – as fact.
“Contrary to law,” says a staff article on its website, “the Lords were not registered with FinCEN.” This seems to contradict both Lord and his tormentors. A copy of Federal court documents published on Ballard Spahr reads, “Defendants did not register with FinCEN until November.”
That is an admission they were registered, but the Feds appear to be claiming it wasn’t until late 2014. Lord, for his part, says he first registered in mid 2014, then again in late 2014 after Coinbase notified him it couldn’t locate the registration. That, in turn, raises the question of what happened to the reported mid-2014 registration attempt. The Ballad Spahr PDF above does show the Feds acknowledging Lord’s claim to have registered earlier than November 2014. In an innocent-until-proven-guilty trial system, presumably the authorities would have to prove Lord didn’t register as claimed… not the other way around. But the American system is not a trial system; it is a plea system.
Significantly, the case has more in common with the Morpheus case than just Bitcoin. As they did when they arrested the prominent Arizona Bitcoiner, authorities seem to have focused on Lord’s use of LocalBitcoins.com… prompting speculation that the site or its users are high on Washington’s target list.
Lord says he has no regrets, except presumably the plea, which he later tried to withdraw. He says a conversation with a relevant Louisiana official convinced him he hadn’t even broken the law… as the Feds supposedly require less from a Bitcoiner who lives in a state that does not require a license-to-Bitcoin. Lord says both he and the official agree that LA has no such license. His judge denied the request, and as of late July Lord is planning an appeal.
“I think them not allowing me to withdraw my plea, when they know there was no state license is pretty bad,” he writes, “I now suspect the prosecutor withheld the evidence that shows I attempted to comply with the registration requirement.”
Meanwhile, the national Libertarian Party has denounced the prosecution of its former candidate, and one or more of Lord’s supporters have set up a petition on the White House website… requesting his pardon.
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