Attorney General’s Office and Commerce & Insurance Join CFTC to Stop Nationwide Precious Metals IRA, Bullion Coin SchemeSolicited More Than $185 Million from Defrauded Senior Investors
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office and the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance announced today that they are participating in a consolidated nationwide enforcement action to halt a fraudulent precious metals scheme that has solicited $185 million from at least 1,600 seniors and other investors across the United States.
This week, the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office – on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance – joined the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and 29 other states to file a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging that Metals.com and Barrick Capital Inc. defendants solicited $185 million from seniors and other vulnerable investors nationwide by touting precious metals at grossly inflated prices that were not disclosed.
“The defendants solicited more than $185 million from seniors and other vulnerable investors nationwide by touting precious metals at grossly inflated prices,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance Hodgen Mainda. “They capitalized on investors’ fear of market instability and economic uncertainty. Many investors suffered substantial losses from retirement savings by relying on the false representations made by the defendants and their sales representatives.”
“This nationwide scheme that targeted many vulnerable Tennesseans was a blatant violation of our state’s securities laws and resulted in many losing their retirement funds,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. “Our Office is going after people who do something like this. We won’t hesitate in seeking justice for the victims.”
“We want to protect Tennessee consumers from these alleged fraudsters and other unscrupulous actors. I encourage any Tennessean who believes they were involved with Metals.com or companies and/or individuals like them – to let us know immediately,” said Assistant Commissioner of Securities Elizabeth Bowling. “We know of a couple dozen victims in Tennessee and anticipate more through the discovery process and further reporting from Tennesseans.”
“This historic joint effort between the CFTC and 30 state regulators is an important step toward rooting out fraud across the country,” said CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert. “This case highlights just how geographically broad commodities fraud can be in our rapidly-evolving financial markets and how important it is for regulators at all levels of government to work together to pursue bad actors and protect market participants.”
The complaint names Los Angeles, Calif. based companies TMTE Inc., also known as Metals.com, Chase Metals Inc., Chase Metals LLC, Barrick Capital Inc., along with Simon Batashvili, Lucas Asher, and Tower Equity LLC. The defendants are accused of using cold calling, television, radio, and social media advertisements designed to “instill fear in elderly and retirement-aged investors and build trust with investors based on representations of political or religious affinity.” Investors were advised to liquidate their holdings at registered investment firms to fund investments in precious metals bullion through self-directed individual retirement accounts and bullion coins, the complaint said.
The defendants also are accused of failing to disclose, among other things, the markup Metals.com and Barrick charged investors for their precious metals bullion products and that investors could lose the majority of their funds immediately upon completing a transaction. The defendants charged investors prices for gold or silver bullion averaging from 100% to more than 300% the melt value or spot price of that gold or silver bullion. In many cases, the market value of the precious metals sold to investors was substantially lower than the value of the securities and other retirement savings investors had liquidated to fund their purchase.
The complaint requests the Court order the defendants to cease sales activity, return money to investors and stop defrauding investors and violating federal and state laws going forward. The complaint also requests that a receiver be appointed to take over the companies to marshal funds for the benefit of investors across the country.
Metals.com and its agents have attempted to evade previous regulatory actions from 12 states by, among other tactics, changing its business name. Today’s coordinated state and federal action to put a stop to the company’s efforts to continue to prey on elderly investors is the result of a multi-state collaboration by members of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which of which the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance is a member, and the CFTC’s Office of Cooperative Enforcement.
The Department of Commerce & Insurance and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office encourage investors to come forward if they suspect they have been targeted by Metals.com or similar precious metals investment schemes. Please contact the Securities Division at the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance at 615-741-5900 to speak with an investigator or email email@example.com or visit https://www.tn.gov/commerce/securities/investors/file-a-complaint.html to file a complaint.
About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance
Fostering fair marketplaces, public safety, and consumer education that promote the success of individuals and businesses while serving as innovative leaders. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance, Securities, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board and TennCare Oversight.