November 1, 2012
Lawrence (a/k/a "Larry") H. Heim, 72, Tigard, OR was the President and owner of Portland-based U.S. Gold & Silver Investments, Inc. ("USGSI"). In marketing USGSI, Heim operated a website and hosted a radio program, where he advertised the sale of gold and silver coins. The website offered a calculation of the future value of gold.
For those unfortunate folks who were dazzled by the glint of Heim's precious-metal coins, he was there to sell them what they wanted - all you needed was to send him a check or wire transfer. As to your getting delivery of the coins you purchased; well, that's the stuff of lawsuits, right?
By early 2011, amid growing customer complaints of non-delivery, Heim shut down USGSI's website. By that summer, the sham was uncovered and the fraud seemingly amounted to at least $1.7 million.Unfortunately (and all too typically of these scams), many of Heim's clients were elderly individuals who had purchased coins with funds from their retirement savings.
As the Great Recession took hold and the cost of precious metals began to skyrocket, Heim fell behind in his coin purchases. At this point, what may have started out as a legitimate venture devolved into nothing more than another Ponzi scheme, with Heim using new victims' funds to make purchases of gold and silver coins for earlier customers.
On August 25, 2011, Heim was indicted in federal court in the District of Oregon on 13 counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, Heim faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000 on each count.
On May 30, 2012, Heim had pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Notably, the once alleged theft of at least $1.7 million had ballooned to more than $4 million from 48 victims.
On October 31, 2012, Heim was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $4,057,003.87 in restitution to his victims.
Bill Singer's Comment
Yeah, I know, precious metals are all the rage. Wanna get in on the action? You can invest through the GLD, GDX, GDXJ, or SLV exchange traded funds. You can buy stocks in miners. You can even go to a store, hand over your cash, and buy ingots or coins - all of which you can physically take with you and deposit where you wish. Then, you could read some stuff on a website or watch an infomercial and send you money to someone, someplace, and hope that it's all legit. I'm not gonna second guess anyone, but, geez, with all the options for investing in precious metals, doing it through a radio show or website doesn't strike me as the best route.