Fool’s gold? CFTC says 12 firms sell phantom metals

2008 file photo of actual gold. AP

The CFTC is cracking down on firms playing up demand for metals during these uncertain economic times.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced Wednesday, it filed a civil injunctive enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against 12 firms and their executives for fraudulently marketing illegal, off exchange retail commodity contracts.
The firms and individuals are: Hunter Wise Commodities, LLC; Hunter Wise Services, LLC; Hunter Wise Credit, LLC; Hunter Wise Trading, LLC; Lloyds Commodities, LLC; Lloyds Commodities Credit Company, LLC; Lloyds Services, LLC; C.D. Hopkins Financial, LLC; Hard Asset Lending Group, LLC; Blackstone Metals Group, LLC; Newbridge Alliance, Inc.; United States Capital Trust, LLC; Harold Edward Martin, Jr.; Fred Jager; James Burbage; Frank Gaudino; Baris Keser; Chadewick Hopkins; John King; and David A. Moore.

According to the CFTC complaint, the defendants claim to sell physical metals, including gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and copper, to retail customers in retail commodity transactions. Under the defendants’ retail commodity transactions investment contract, customers allegedly make a down payment on certain quantities of physical metals, usually 25 percent of the total purchase price. Defendants allegedly claim to arrange loans for the balance of the purchase price, and advise customers that their physical metals will be stored in a secure depository.

But the CFTC alleged that the defendants do not purchase any physical metals, arrange loans for their customers to purchase physical metals, or arrange for storage of physical metals for any customers participating in their retail commodity transactions. Instead, all the transactions are just paper transactions, according to the complaint. Defendants allegedly do not own or sell metals to customers; customers are charged storage and insurance fees on metals that do not exist; and are charged interest on loans, which are never made by the defendants.

Hunter Wise Commodities, the orchestrator of the alleged fraud according to the CFTC , has taken in at least $46 million in customer funds since July 2011.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) of 2010 expanded the CFTC’s jurisdiction over transactions like these, and requires that such transactions be executed on or subject to the rules of a board of trade, exchange or commodity market, according to the complaint. This new requirement took effect on July 16, 2011. The complaint alleges that all of the defendants’ financed commodity transactions after July 16, 2011, were illegal. The complaint also alleges that the defendants defrauded customers in all of these financed commodity transactions.

David Meister, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement stated: “Here is a prime example of how the Dodd-Frank Act provided the Commission with additional strong authority to go after wrong-doers, such as, as alleged in the complaint, individuals who prey on people looking to make retail investments in commodities like gold and silver. We will use this new authority to the fullest extent possible.”

Source: CFTC announcement.

Rob Varnon