After being extradited to Arizona on August 1st, on charges of fraud, money laundering and extortion, George Cottrell has pleaded not guilty to all 21 charges against him. He will be held behind bars until his court date as a judge ruled the 22-year-old a “serious flight risk.”
George Cottrell, a senior aide to Nigel Farage, the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, was arrested on July 22 as he and Mr. Farage disembarked a plane at Chicago O’Hare airport. They were on their way back to the UK after spending a week at the Republican National Convention in Ohio.
Cottrell, the grandson of the late Yorkshire landowner Lord Manton, is accused of agreeing to launder money on behalf of drug traffickers on the deepweb, who were undercover FBI agents.
Under the pseudonym ‘Bill,’ Cottrell advertised money laundering and consultation services on the deepweb between March and September 2014.
He offered the undercover FBI agents “complete anonymity and security” through his offshore accounts. A transaction took place where Cottrell laundered the money for the “drug dealers” and sent them the clean money using various mediums.
According to the indictment, he then tried to blackmail the drug dealers, still believing them to be undercover agents, threatening to expose them to the police as “drug traffickers” unless they paid him $81,000 in bitcoin.
The arrest of Cottrell was initially reported by the Daily Mail where an entire breakdown of both Farage and Cottrell’s activities was listed. “As they arrived in the U.S., Cottrell was briefly detained by customs officers in Chicago in what appeared to be a routine check before being allowed to continue his journey.”
It turns out a Daily Mail reporter was with them for the entire time, both at the airport and the Republican National Convention in Ohio. Not only was the reporter able to follow Cottrell, but so was the FBI. The court documents reveal that the FBI had been there every step of the way, waiting for the right opportunity to arrest Cottrell.
After the agents arrested the 22-year-old at Chicago O’Hare airport, the group, including Farage, had no idea what was happening and had to travel back to the UK without Cottrell. After reaching out to Mr. Farage for a statement, he stated that he had no knowledge of the aide’s illegal activities. A UKIP spokesperson stamped this point when a statement was given to the press:
“George was an unpaid and enthusiastic volunteer for the party over the period of the referendum. We are unaware of the details of the allegations excepting that they date from a time before he was directly involved in the party.”
Cottrell will be held in custody in Phoenix, Arizona until his trial on October 4th, and is being denied bail due to his “serious, years-long gambling problem” and tendency to take “irrational risks.”