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Designer of 'Liberty Dollar' Sentenced to Home Detention

Antigovernment activist Bernard von NotHaus was convicted three years ago of counterfeiting for making and selling his own silver coins. Now he gets to create his own jail.

The 70-year-old antigovernment activist – called a numismatic gadfly by some – was sentenced this week to six months of home detention and three years of probation by U.S. District Judge Richard L. Voorhees of the Western District of North Carolina.

Last month, the judge denied von NotHaus’ request to set aside his jury conviction or grant a new trial.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a sentence of between 14 and 17 years in prison for the man who attempted head-on competition with the U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve Bank. The government can appeal the sentence and von NotHaus could appeal his conviction.

What’s still on the table, undecided, is who gets more than $6 million worth of counterfeit “Liberty Dollars” and other coins that von NotHaus made in his failed attempt to compete with the Federal Reserve System. Most of the coins and dies used to make them were seized from a private minting plant in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 2007. The government’s forfeiture request likely will be decided by the court early next year after additional legal motions are filed.

After a lengthy and costly undercover investigation by the FBI, von NotHaus was convicted in Statesville, N.C., in March 2011 of conspiracy and counterfeiting. The case is believed to be the first time the federal government has brought a successful criminal prosecution against someone viewed by federal authorities as a direct threat and competitor to the U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Immediately after that conviction, the district’s U.S. Attorney, Anne M. Tompkins, issued a statement saying von NotHaus’ production and sale of counterfeit currency in competition with the U.S. Government was “a unique form of domestic terrorism.”

But after this week’s sentencing hearing, her office didn’t issue a press release or a statement. After multiple requests for comment, Public Information Officer Lia Bantavani sent Hatewatch a short e-mail only confirming the length of the sentence.

Likewise, von NotHaus did not respond to a request for comment. Presumably, he will return to his current home in Estero, Fla., a palm-tree-lined community on the Gulf Coast, to serve his six-months of home detention.

As the founder of the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act (NORFED), von NotHaus and his operation received wide-spread attention from antigovernment groups and individuals who claim the banking system is part of a vast international conspiracy.

As part of his Pyramid-style operation, von NotHaus sought to have his Liberty Dollar coins accepted and distributed by merchants in the place of U.S. currency in order to make a profit for him and others participating in his Liberty Dollar Organization. The U.S. Treasury issued a consumer warning about the money, saying the coins were not legal tender, but that didn’t stop von NotHaus and his operation.

A jury decided von NotHaus was a counterfeiter after a trial which included testimony from an expert who said the Liberty Dollars closely matched U.S. Mint coins. Specifically, the expert pointed to a depiction of the head of the Statue of Liberty, a date below the Liberty, a similar style of torch, the motto (“we trust God” versus “In God We Trust”), writing out the denomination (“DOLLAR”) in the same serif font, use of the dollar sign ($), a similar diameter, weight and reeded edges as used on U.S. Mint coinage.

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