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Florida precious metals telemarketer shut down for allegedly defrauding senior citizens

May 17, 2011 |  8:58 am

Gold and silver The dramatic rise in the value of precious metals was a golden opportunity for a Florida telemarketing firm to allegedly scam senior citizens and other consumers out of more than $37 million, the Federal Trade Commission said.

A federal judge has shut down American Precious Metals at the request of the agency, which has charged the firm and its owners, Harry R. Tanner Jr. and his wife, Andrea Tanner, with violating federal law and the FTC's rules for telemarketing sales. The company and its owners have offices and facilities in Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach and its customers, including many senior citizens, came from around the country, according to the FTC and court documents.

In addition, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has charged the company, Harry Tanner and another man, Samuel Goldman, with violating laws covering the sale of precious metals contracts, the FTC said.

The company promised clients that they could earn big profits by investing in silver, gold, platinum, palladium and other precious metals, according to the FTC. "Using high-pressure sales tactics, telemarketers led consumers to believe that they were offering low-risk investments that would double or triple in value in a short time," the agency said.

The claims were not outrageous given the sharp increase in the prices for gold and silver in recent months. But the FTC said the company didn't purchase any precious metals with the money. Fees and commissions weren't clearly disclosed to customers and the investments were leveraged and "subject to equity calls that might require them to pay more money to prevent their investments from being liquidated."

A U.S. judge in the Southern District of Florida last week froze the company's assets, appointed a receiver and ordered the firm to stop its allegedly deceptive practices, pending a trial. The company's officials could not be reached for comment and its website contained only information about the receiver and a copy of the judge's temporary restraining order.

The FTC referred people interested in investing in precious metals to three consumer alerts on its website: Investing in Gold? What's the Rush?, Investing In Bullion and Bullion Coins, and Investing in Collectible Coins. They warn consumers to investigate the offers before they invest.

"Some gold promoters don't deliver what they promise, and may push people into an investment that isn't right for them," the FTC said in its consumer alert about gold investing.


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-- Jim Puzzanghera