As part of a nationwide investigation, FBI agents raided three Coeur d’Alene business locations on Thursday, seizing records and dies used to make the so-called silver “Liberty Dollar” sold throughout the United States by anti-government patriot groups.
The Coeur d’Alene raids coincided with similar raids by FBI and U.S. Secret Service agents, on Thursday at the Evansville, Ind., headquarters of organization called NORFED – the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act & Internal Revenue Code.
For a decade, the organization led by a self-described “monetary architect” and harsh critic of the Federal Reserve System has pumped out an estimated $20 million its own currency, reportedly backed by silver coins minted and stored in Coeur d’Alene. The raids Thursday are the first head-on federal challenge to that operation.
Since 1998, the NORFED silver coins were manufactured at Sunshine Minting, a private Coeur d’Alene business which makes a variety of precious metal products. The silver coins backed up paper currently in $1, $5 and $10 denominations marketed by NORFED.
The organization was about to begin selling and distributing “Ron Paul” dollars, supporting the candidacy of the Republican congressman from Texas who’s seeking the GOP nomination for president. He previously ran for president as a Libertarian.
Dies used to produce the coins reportedly were seized at the Coeur d’Alene minting company and accounting records were seized with warrants served at two Coeur d’Alene accounting firms, according to law enforcement sources.
“They took a lot of stuff out of there,” one source said of the serving of a federal search warrant at Sunshine Minting, located at 750 W. Canfield, not far from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials with the sheriff’s office were unaware of the raids. Federal authorities in Idaho referred inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina, where the federal investigation apparently is being spearheaded. Those officials couldn’t be reached Thursday afternoon.
The raids were confirmed by three other sources who asked not to be identified.
Tom Power, the current owner of Sunshine Minting, did not return telephone calls Thursday, but other employees said he was at the company located at 750 W. Canfield, north of Coeur d’Alene, shortly after federal search warrants were used to confiscated various items.
The Coeur d’Alene company was producing the Liberty Dollars under a contract with Bernard von NotHaus, a self-described “monetary architect” and critic of the Federal Reserve System who started NORFED while he lived in Hawaii in the late 1990s. His organization had tax-exempt, nonprofit status.
“We never refer to the American Liberty as a coin,” von NotHaus told The Spokesman-Review in 1999. “The word ‘coin’ is a government-controlled term. This is currency that is free from government control.”
“When the people own the money, they control the government,” he said. “When the government owns the money, it controls the people.”
Since then, his anti-government coin-producing operation reportedly has put $20 million of its “Liberty Dollars” in circulation. They can be used at merchants willing to accept them as legal tender or so-called “redemption centers” located in most states.
A man claiming to be von NotHaus posted notice of the federal raids Thursday on the Internet.
“I sincerely regret to inform you that about 8 this morning a dozen FBI and Secret Service agents raided the Liberty Dollar office in Evansville,” the posting said.
“For approximately six hours they took all the gold, all the silver, all the platinum, and almost two tons of Ron Paul Dollars that were just delivered last Friday. They also took all the files and computers and froze our bank accounts,” the statement said.
It asked purchasers with pending orders to be patient.
“We have no money. We have no products. We have no records to even know what was ordered or what you are owed. We have nothing but the will to push forward and overcome this massive assault on our liberty and our right to have real money as defined by the U.S. Constitution,” it said.
“We should not be defrauded by the fake government money,” according to the statement.
The United States Mint recently issued a statement saying “prosecutors with the Department of Justice have determined that the use of these gold and silver NORFED ‘Liberty Dollar’ medallions as circulating money is a federal crime.”
“Consumers who are considering the purchase or use of these items should be aware that they are not genuine United States Mint bullion coins and they are not legal tender,” the U.S. Mint statement said.
In a 1999 interview with The Spokesman-Review, von NotHaus claimed his money was not only legal, but much-needed competition for the government. At the time, Federal Reserve and House Banking Committee officials collectively scratched their heads when asked if von NotHaus’ coin business was illegal.
“We’re going to be to the Federal Reserve System what Federal Express was to the Postal Service,’” the “monetary architect” told the newspaper.
At the time, von NotHaus owned the Royal Hawaiian Mint, which had contracts with Sunshine Minting Co. in Coeur d’Alene to manufacture the American Liberty silver coins.
Von NotHaus said his paper currency – in $1, $5 and $10 denominations – was backed with equal amounts of the $10 coins, stored in a vault in Coeur d’Alene.
Audits of the silver in the vault were done by an unidentified Coeur d’Alene accounting firm and are posted on NORFED’s extensive Web site ( www.norfed.org), according to a 1999 news story published in The Spokesman-Review.
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