From an Evansville strip mall, Bernard von NotHaus ran the most successful alternative currency in the country. Then the FBI raided his headquarters, arrested him, and seized eight tons of gold and silver backing the notes. But even as he awaits sentencing, the $65 million question remains: Was it really counterfeiting?
Say what you will about Bernard von NotHaus, the man has led his federal probation officers to some beautiful places. First, there was the waterfront penthouse in Miami Beach. Then there was the penthouse at the Marco Polo condominium in Honolulu. Today, he occupies a multimillion-dollar, 40-acre estate in Malibu owned by a longtime friend. Make no mistake, though: NotHaus is broke.
Ever since the FBI raided the Evansville office of his alternative currency, the Liberty Dollar, in 2007—seizing his assets and arresting him for counterfeiting—the 68-year-old has been living on Social Security and the kindness of wealthy acquaintances.
Which explains how someone who drives a beat-up, ’90s-era Pontiac Grand Am received his regular visit from the probation department yesterday at a spectacular house with a driveway so winding and steep that the officer refused to ascend it.
Wearing a Hawaiian shirt and his long gray hair in a ponytail, NotHaus greets me at the front gate and welcomes me inside. His companion of 40 years, Talena “Telle” Presley, disappears to a back room. If he wants to do another interview, that’s his business. A documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles has been shooting him here lately, and the BBC plans to sit down with him next week. NotHaus wastes no time spreading dozens of old coins and bills on a table for the beginning of a monetary history lesson.
“Listen, the U.S. government has been printing billions of dollars a year,” he says. “That’s like watering down good Chivas whiskey! And it always leads to hyperinflation eventually.”