Conservative and religious investors have been fleeced by a gold scam purportedly run by two Los Angeles men and their companies, fraudulently raising nearly $180 million, according to regulators on Friday.
Lucas Asher and Simon Batashvili have been accused of defrauding 1,600 investors over a three year period beginning in 2016. Both individuals are tied to two companies, Metals.com and Barrick Capital Inc., according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as well as 30 state regulators.
The CFTC and state regulators filed a lawsuit against Asher and Batashvili and the two companies in the federal court in Dallas, Texas. Another company identified as Tower Equity was also charged as a relief defendant.
In the lawsuit, regulators alleged that the defendants falsely pitched to securities investors that the federal government had plans to seize their assets unless converted into precious metals.
As a result, victims liquidated their retirement accounts to purchase gold and silver at astronomical markups between 100% and 300%.
The defendants “swindled tens of millions from the victims, who were targeted for their politically conservative and Christian leanings,” said CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert.
Currently, regulators are unsure as to how much funding will be available for compensation to the victims.
The court freezes the defendants’ assets
On September 22, Judge David Godbey of the Northern District Court of Texas entered a restraining order freezing the assets of the defendants and the relief defendant. The order allowed regulators to inspect all relevant records. The court also appointed a receiver to take control of Metals.com, Barrick, and Tower Equity, as well as the assets of Asher and Batashvili.
In a phone call, Asher denied having any involvement in Metals.com, saying “I think it’s a mistaken identity. I don’t believe I have done anything wrong, so I hope to resolve this.” His proposed accomplice Batashvili has declined to comment on the case.
Metals.com is reportedly based in San Diego and claims it is “a recognized world leader in industrial metals marketing and sales throughout the nation and around the globe.” The other firm implicated in the complaint, Berrick Capital Inc. says it works with investors to set up “real estate individual retirement accounts.”
USA Herald will be providing ongoing coverage for any updates related to the case.
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