Creator of ‘Liberty Dollars’ Fights Forfeiture of Coins, Silver
A 68-year-old antigovernment activist who is facing prison for minting his own currency is now seeking a new trial while opposing the federal government’s attempt to seek forfeiture of $7 million in coins and silver bars.
Bernard von NotHaus, convicted by a jury 15 months ago of violating federal counterfeiting laws, is successfully delaying his sentencing by claiming his 92-year-old mother owns some of the precious metals seized during the criminal investigation of his counterfeiting operation.
Von NotHaus faces up to 15 years in federal prison after being convicted in Statesville, N.C., in March 2011 of counterfeiting and passing counterfeit coins, making and passing coins resembling genuine U.S. coins, and conspiracy.
Since that conviction, von NotHaus has been out of jail, and recently was allowed to move from California to Florida. He has hired and fired several lawyers, causing further legal delays in his sentencing.
A sentencing date has not been set. U.S. District Judge Richard Voorhees of the Western District of North Carolina is considering various legal issues.
In his latest move, von NotHaus filed legal papers with the court on May 21, claiming his mother, Mary “Suzy” Nothhouse of Estero, Fla., owns 16,000 ounces of silver bars purchased in 2005 from Sunshine Minting Inc. in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The silver bars were among an estimated $7 million worth of silver and coins – eight tons – seized in 2007 by the FBI.
Items at the private mint in Idaho included “Tea Party” and “Ron Paul” dollars being promoted by von NotHaus through his National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act (NORFED), court documents say.
Mary Nothhouse is a retired swimming instructor who says in court documents she was often paid “a quarter per lesson” and “frugally saved her money,” eventually investing in silver being sold by her son.
Her raw silver – 16 bars weighing 16,000 ounces and worth an estimated $464,000 at today’s prices – was being held in a “safekeeping account” at the Sunshine Mint, where her son was having his various coins minted, Nothhouse says in the court documents. Mary Nothhouse claims she owns 15,000 ounces of the silver bars and her other son, Robert Nothhouse, owns 1,000 ounces. “I am the legal owner of all this silver,” Mary Nothhouse says.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Ascik filed a legal response on Friday, rebutting von NotHaus’ claim. His latest motion delaying his sentencing “adds little or nothing to what was already in evidence” in the seven-year-old case, Ascik wrote.
In criminal cases in which the government seeks forfeiture of assets, their connection to the crimes of conviction must be determined by the court “without regard to any third party’s interest in the property,” Ascik said.
“Bernard von NotHaus did not have standing to assert the ownership interests of Mary and Robert Nothhouse in this criminal case,” the federal prosecutor said. They “will have adequate remedies at law to assert their ownership interests if and when the court renders its verdict making a finding that the raw silver is ‘subject to forfeiture,’” Ascik wrote in the response motion.
Although his brother and mother are supposedly “real parties” of interest in his latest legal maneuver, von NotHaus did not include a “verification or attestation” from either Mary or Robert Nothhouse. “Thus, it cannot be known whether they agree with the motion or are even aware that they have been put forth as interested parties,” Ascik said.
Bernard von NotHaus has long been at odds with the government, from handing out marijuana to be smoked at “religious services” to minting and selling his own coins – accepting Federal Reserve notes for the purchases, of course.
The self-described “monetary architect” contends that if the U.S. government can print coins and currency and distribute them through the Federal Reserve system, he can, too, through his own network of sales representatives.
He began producing his “Liberty Dollars” in 1998 when he lived in Hawaii and worked at the private Honolulu Mint. His organization, initially formed as a tax-exempt nonprofit, later changed its name to Liberty Services.
Later, he moved its operations to Evansville, Ind., where he teamed with James W. Thomas, publisher of Media Bypass, a now-defunct magazine popular with antigovernment “Patriots” and sovereign citizens.