The Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) has joined the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and 26 other state securities regulators in filing a lawsuit against a precious metals dealer and its owner who defrauded $68 million from at least 450 investors.
In Oregon, 11 investors were defrauded out of almost $3 million. Many Oregon investors liquidated their existing retirement accounts, which contained securities, to obtain funds to purchase the metals.
The lawsuit alleges that Safeguard Metals, LLC and Jeffery Santulan, aka Jeffery Hill, solicited investors by targeting seniors through social media platforms and websites linked to media personalities and financial gurus, also touting precious metals at grossly inflated prices that were not disclosed. A complaint was filed against the defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The defendants are accused of failing to disclose the markup charge for their precious metals bullion products and that investors could lose the majority of their funds once a transaction was completed. 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.
“We will never stand by and watch Oregonians get defrauded out of their life’s savings,” said Division of Financial Regulation (DFR) Administrator TK Keen. “Seniors are often targeted with these types of schemes and we must do everything we can to protect them and their hard-earned money against bad actors.”
Officials from the division, which is part of DCBS, remind people to research any investment before giving anyone their money.
“If an investment seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Keen said.
The investors in the Safeguard Metals case were advised to liquidate their holdings at registered investment firms to fund investments in precious metals, bullion, and bullion coins through self-directed individual retirement accounts. Self-directed IRAs should not be confused with traditional IRAs or other retirement vehicles. Self-directed accounts are placed with a custodian, but do not afford the investor any protections nor provide a review of the holdings or any valuations of the holdings in the account.