WASHINGTON, D.C. – (October 25, 2023) – Thirty state regulators and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced a settlement with a precious metals dealer and its owner for operating a nationwide $68 million fraudulent scheme targeting elderly and retirement-aged persons. The settlement resolves the federal lawsuit filed in February 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against defendants Safeguard Metals LLC and Jeffrey Ikahn.
The consent order finds Safeguard Metals and Ikahn liable for executing a nationwide fraud involving the sale of fraudulently overpriced silver coins. The order also enjoins defendants from future violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and Regulations; future violations of state laws and regulations set forth in the complaint; and from trading or registering with the Commission and states as set forth in the complaint. The order further reserves determination of the amounts of restitution, disgorgement, and civil monetary penalty for future decision by the court or by consent.
“This action to stop a nationwide precious metals fraud is the result of a strong partnership between state and federal regulators who share a common goal of protecting investors. Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident, but rather a symptom of a widespread problem of investment scams targeting senior and vulnerable citizens,” said Claire McHenry, NASAA President and Deputy Director of the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance Bureau of Securities. “I want to thank the CFTC and the NASAA members for their diligence and hard work.”
“Today’s resolution of liability in this nationwide scheme demonstrates the CFTC’s commitment to working with fellow regulators to protect investors and the integrity of markets,” said Ian McGinley, CFTC Director of Enforcement. “We will continue to hold accountable those who take advantage of vulnerable populations.”
“This settlement is an important reminder of the role state securities regulators play in investor protection. We urge investors to contact their state securities regulator with questions about any investment opportunity or the person offering it for sale before investing in the product,” said NASAA Enforcement Section Committee Co-Chairs Brett Olin, Montana Deputy Securities Commissioner, and Amanda Senn, Director of the Alabama Securities Commission.
The main findings of the order include:
- The defendants executed a nationwide fraud from approximately October 2017 through at least July 2021, soliciting and receiving approximately $68 million, the majority of which was retirement savings, from at least 450 persons for the purpose of purchasing precious metals, primarily consisting of silver coins.
- The defendants deceived customers into purchasing silver coins through false and misleading statements, including about the risk and safety of their investments in traditional retirement accounts.
- The defendants also deceived customers into purchasing silver coins at prices that included grossly inflated price markups that vastly exceeded the price markups disclosed to customers. As an example, customers paid an average price markup of 71 percent when the customer agreement stated that defendants would charge a maximum price markup of 23 percent on silver coins. These excessive markups caused customers an immediate and substantial loss on their investment.
- The defendants then continued to mislead their customers about the true value of the silver coins they had purchased to cover up their fraudulent scheme.
In a parallel, separate action, on February 1, 2022, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil action against Safeguard Metals and Ikahn for violations arising from the fraudulent precious metals scheme and fraudulently overpriced silver coins and for rendering unlawful investment advice. On June 14, 2023, the SEC entered a similar consent order with defendants, in which defendants admitted liability, that enjoined defendants from further violations, and which provided for the amount of disgorgement and civil monetary penalty to be determined later.
The CFTC and NASAA thanks and acknowledges the assistance of the SEC.
The following state regulatory agencies are CFTC’s co-plaintiffs in this action, and the CFTC thanks them for their cooperation: Alabama Securities Commission; Arizona Corporation Commission; Arkansas Securities Department; California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation; State of Connecticut Department of Banking; State of Florida, Office of Financial Regulation; State of Hawaii, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Idaho Department of Finance; Office of the Secretary of State, Illinois Securities Department; Indiana Securities Division; Iowa Insurance Commissioner Douglas M. Ommen; Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions; State of Maryland Ex Rel the Maryland Securities Commissioner; Attorney General Dana Nessel on Behalf of the People of the State of Michigan; Mississippi Secretary of State; Missouri Commissioner of Securities; Nebraska Department of Banking & Finance; New Mexico Securities Division; The People of the State of New York by Letitia James, Attorney General of the State of New York; North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State; Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Securities; Oklahoma Department of Securities; Oregon Department of Business and Consumer Services; South Carolina Attorney General; South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation; Commissioner of the Tennessee Securities Department of Commerce and Insurance; Utah Division of Securities; Vermont Department of Financial Regulation; Washington State Department of Financial Institutions; and the State of Wisconsin.
Organized in 1919, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection. NASAA is a voluntary association whose membership consists of the securities regulators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the 13 provincial and territorial securities regulators in Canada, and the securities regulator in México. For more information, visit www.nasaa.org.
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