$8 Million Lost to Scammers Who Promised to Turn Dirt into Gold

Spread the love
$8 Million Lost to Scammers Who Promised to Turn Dirt into Gold

People are willing to invest their hard-earned money in businesses that promise to make them rich and financially independent in little time. While some investment opportunities are legit and help people enjoy generous returns, others are scams. This was the case of an investment opportunity promoted by a man in Utah who promised he could turn dirt into gold. With this unbelievable claim, he managed to gather millions of dollars over the course of several years.

The total losses caused by this scam amounted to $8 million. Each person that got scammed lost an average of approximately $58,000. At the moment, the man, Marc Tager, and his collaborators are imprisoned for the roles they played in what was an elaborate telemarketing scam.

It all started in 2014 when a group of 4 men decided to orchestrate a scheme based on fake allegations they possessed highly advanced technology that could turn dirt into gold. They pulled the scam mainly remotely by using telemarketing strategies to lure investors. Unfortunately, most of the people they targeted and managed to deceive were older people aged 65 and above. Over several years, the scammers managed to trick as many as 140 people and convince them to transfer money promising high returns once the technology would become functional and start producing gold. One peculiar fact that probably contributed to the scam’s success was that 2 of the authors belonged to the same age group (Jonathon Shoucair, 69 and Kenneth Gross, 75).

The whole trick was centered on a machine developed by Matthew Magnum, 55 that supposedly could extract gold from dirt. The con men told potential investors that they owned a complex gold-extracting machine that was built with nanotechnology. Besides being able to produce gold, the machine was also eco-friendly and posed no dangers for the environment. What it basically did was extracting microscopic gold particles from dirt. People were asked to invest money to support this innovative technology that needed space, extra equipment, and materials before it could be put to good use.

The whole scheme was promoted through cold calls by Kenneth Gross from California. He called hundreds of people during the past years, offering them the possibility to invest in the machine and gain huge profits after its implementation. If Kenneth’s initial call was successful, he then passed investors to Shoucair and Marc Tager, 55 who was the last defendant to get sentenced and imprisoned this year for taking part in the scam.

Tager and Shoucair’s job was to get money from investors. The two people were not recently acquainted. They had met years before in prison while each one was serving time for fraud-related convictions. Those who transferred money weren’t aware that it was only partially used to support the breakthrough technology. The rest went into the scammers’ pockets and as expected, the business never generated any profits for investors.

To make the whole story seem more real, the con artists also created a website where they explained how the extraction technology would work. On their page, the men also claimed they owned an 80-acre mining with significant mineral-rich ore. Moreover, they said that their technology was able to extract 20 times more gold than traditional mining methods, costed less, and was less harmful to the environment. To make the opportunity luring, the con men told people they would enjoy a 100% return on investment, all this in as little as one year. The group of scammers had also set up a facility and investors who wanted to check for themselves that the company existed could tour it. According to prosecutors, the generous amount of $8 million was spent in the following way; Magnum, Shoucair, and Tager spent $3 million, the amount of $2 million went into telemarketing costs (this also included paying Gross for his work), and the remaining amount went into business expenses incurred by the company Jersey Consulting.

At the moment, the men are serving time in prison for various reasons including conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and even possession of firearms by a convicted felon. Overall, the case was not easy to investigate and uncover according to the FBI and IRS agents who worked on it.

10 of the Most Cunning Scammers in History

Throughout history, people have tried to obtain money illegally by pulling scams. Some of these tricks remained in history for their impact and the huge amounts of money their authors managed to gather. Besides lots of money, con men also gained fame for their clever schemes, even though many of them finally got caught. Here are 10 of the most famous con men in history and their fraudulent schemes.

Charles Ponzi

One of the most famous con men in history, Charles Ponzi, even has a scam named after him – the Ponzi scheme. The type of scam he managed to pull, and which nowadays is synonymous with his name, involved a pyramid scheme. Ponzi gathered money from many people promising a good investment opportunity in International Reply Coupons, with a profit of 50% in 45 days. He made more than a million dollars before the scheme collapsed as investors realized there were no chances of gaining the promised returns.

Joseph Weil

Also known as the ‘Yellow Kid’, Joseph Weil was a versatile and experimented scammer who made a fortune (more than $8 million) through different scams involving fake oil deals, women, or fixed races. Weil had managed to deceive thousands of people during his long life. He died in 1976 at the age of 100.

George Parker

Parker’s specialty was selling landmarks. He remains in history for selling the Brooklyn Bridge to foreigners. The Statue of Liberty, Madison Garden, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art were other famous landmarks in his portfolio.

Robert Hendy-Freegard

Robert Hendy-Freegard was a British conman who claimed he worked as an MI5 agent fighting against the IRA. He pretended to work undercover, deceiving people and asking them to pass different loyalty tests while taking advantage of them. He is the subject of the documentary ‘The Spy Who Stole My Life’.

Christophe Rocancourt

This stylish con artist pulled his first successful scam by selling a property he didn’t actually own for $1.4 million. He is also believed to have conned many celebrities such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Catherine Breillat from whom he stole €700,000, which led to his imprisonment in 2012.

Eduardo de Valfierno

Although no one knows for sure whether this person was real, Eduardo is allegedly the man who planned the theft of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. He managed to get 6 copies of the real painting and after the theft occurred, each of the buyers the paintings were sold to assumed they had the real masterpiece.

Frank William Abagnale Jr.

Frank William Abagnale Jr. was the famous con artist who inspired the movie ‘Catch Me If You Can’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. William’s cunning schemes were carried out by assuming different identities and pretending to be a professional in different fields. By the age of 21, he had already assumed 8 identities. Two of the professions he pretended to master were pilot and doctor. However, his true talent was forging perfect checks. After he got caught, he accepted a release deal and worked with the government helping them spot fake checks.

Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort’s memoir brought him international fame after Martin Scorsese decided to turn it into the famous movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. This con artist’s various talents included the ability to manipulate investors, gain money on the stock market through cunning strategies, carry out security fraud, and money laundering.

Victor Lustig

Lustig will always remain in history as the man who sold the Eiffel Tower … and did it twice. He pretended to represent the government and to have the right to sell the tower, in 1925, when it was rusting and very poorly maintained. By doing this, he got a generous bribe from one of the metal dealers who were interested in buying the tower. After disappearing for a while, he came back pulling off the same scam and managed to make money once again.

Bernard Madoff

Bernard Madoff is a former American financial advisor and stockbroker. He was the author of one of the largest frauds in the U.S history, which relied on a Ponzi scheme. Together with his family, Madoff made $18 million by convincing people to invest money though their firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

History is constantly writing itself, so it’s only safe to assume that many other con artists will mark their name on the world’s most famous con men list in the future.

Post by Global Asset Management Korea @ All rights reserved