Columnists

Attorney General Todd Rokita Files Multistate Lawsuit Against Precious-Metals Business

Attorney General Todd Rokita today filed a lawsuit with 26 other states and a federal agency against Safeguard Metals, a business that schemed to trick elderly victims into investing in wildly overvalued precious metals.

At least 16 Indiana residents invested a total of more than $860,000 into silver coins and other products offered by Safeguard Metals. Nationally, at least 450 investors paid more than $68 million to the company.

Safeguard Metals’ customers generally and almost immediately suffered substantial losses on their investments due to fraudulently overpriced products. The company is operated by a California man named Jeffrey Santulan, also known as Jeffrey Hill.

“This con artist persuaded elderly folks to withdraw funds from safe and secure retirement accounts in order to throw their money away,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Secretary of State Sullivan and I are working together to bring him to justice and restore his victims, including Hoosiers right here in Indiana.”

Attorney General Rokita is bringing the lawsuit on behalf of the Indiana Securities Division, which he previously oversaw in his capacity as Indiana Secretary of State. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the 27 states filed this legal action today in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

State financial agencies nationwide are investigating numerous more precious metals investment companies on similar allegations. To prevent any further damages, investors are advised to be particularly cautious when purchasing precious metals and to check for outrageously high commissions, spreads or markups as high as 30 to 70 percent.

As the market continues to fluctuate, authorities anticipate seeing more fraudsters capitalize on investors’ uncertainty and use fear to manipulate consumers out of their hard-earned money.

The investors in this 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.

In this case, 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. Many investors liquidated their existing retirement accounts, which contained securities, to obtain funds to purchase the metals.

Attorney General Rokita thanked Deputy Attorney General Jefferson Garn for his work on this case

Those suspecting they have been targeted by precious metals investment schemes may contact the Indiana Securities Division at securities@sos.in.gov or (317) 232-6681.

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of any type of scam may file a complaint at indianaconsumer.com or call Attorney General Rokita’s office at 1-800-382-5516.