Mike Heine/The Week
(Published Sept. 13, 2007, 1:27 p.m.)
A Rockford couple was arrested this spring for using and trying to use "Liberty Dollars" at three Walworth businesses.
The suspects, Shaun A. Kranish, 22, and Svetlana V. Dudnik, 24, may be the first to try and use the "private barter currency" in Walworth County, District Attorney Phil Koss said.
The couple is also the first to post their story on a new blog site, walworthcorruption.blogspot.com, which started Sept. 7. The site is aimed at "exposing corruption in Walworth County, Wisconsin, by any and all persons holding a government job!"
It is unclear who started the site.
On it, the couple tells their story of how they were allegedly harassed by police, booked in jail and thrust into the court system for, as they say, not doing anything wrong.
On May 6, Kranish was getting something to eat at the Dari-Ripple in Walworth and attempted to pay for his meal with a $20 "fine silver Liberty Dollar." Shortly after he gave it to the clerk, a police officer arrived and started asking him questions.
"I tried to explain that it was not against the law, that I was offering silver for trade...," a writer claiming to be Shaun wrote, on the blog site. The article also appears on another blog site, www.makethestand.com.
Kranish and Dudnik, who according to the postings are now married, were arrested and taken to jail. Both are charged with four counts of misdemeanor theft.
Kranish also was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. He had a .45 caliber handgun in a CD case in his car on May 6, and he was wearing an empty holster, according to the complaint.
Walworth police were notified of Liberty Dollars being used at the Walworth Landing gas station, Daniels Sentry in Walworth and again at Dari-Ripple in late April, according to the criminal complaint. Change was given back in at least one of the instances.
Dudnik told police she was with Kranish when he used the coins at the three locations, according to the complaint.
The cases are still pending.
"I've spoken to many lawyers since this has happened, and they have all said the same thing--Walworth County, Wisconsin, is the most corrupt county in the state," Kranish wrote on his blog. "They nail people, especially people from out of town or out of state. It's a huge racket, just like everywhere else. But in Walworth, they do whatever they want with impunity."
Kranish wondered why he couldn't get the silver pieces back from the stores and give them actual currency, as he had done before in Rockford, according to the posting.
Using the Liberty Dollars as circulating currency could actually be a federal crime, according to the United States Mint.
"They are not genuine United States Mint bullion coins and are not legal tender," according to the Mint's Web site. "These medallions are privately produced products that are neither backed by, nor affiliated with, the United States Government."
Bernard von NotHaus, creator of the Liberty Dollar, is suing the U.S. Government for damaging his business after the U.S. Mint publicized warnings about using the coins.
"The Liberty Dollar is a 'private voluntary barter' currency which is not and has not been represented as 'legal tender,' 'coin' or 'current money' in the United States," according to the lawsuit.
The company has "encouraged persons who utilize the barter currency to offer it to merchants as barter payment for goods and services but not as 'legal tender' or 'current money.'" It is legal to use if agreed upon by the merchants, von NotHaus argues.
The company's Web site reminds users that the coins are not U.S. currency, but says to offer them "with the confidence that it will be accepted."
The U.S. Mint, the only entity allowed issue legal tender, accuses the advertisements for the company are confusing because it says the Liberty Dollars are "legal" and "constitutional."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Mint said she could not comment on the Liberty Dollars because of the pending litigation.
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