A 72-year old Oregon man was sentenced to serve more than four years in prison for masterminding a Ponzi scheme that bilked more than $4 million from victims who thought they were investing in gold and silver. Lawrence Heim, of Portland, Oregon, learned his fate from United States District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez, who also ordered Heim to pay more than $4 million in restitution to his defrauded victims. Heim, who was originally indicted for thirteen counts of mail and wire fraud, had pled guilty to s single count of wire fraud earlier this year.
Heim served as President of U.S. Gold & Silver Investments ("USCGI"). Through a local radio program he hosted, Heim touted USCGI as a vehicle for investors to profit off the recent appreciation in gold and silver prices. Investors were told that, in return for sending money to USCGI, gold and/or silver coins would be purchased on their behalf. Heim provided investors with with his "calculations" as to the future value of gold and silver, and investors assumed that they would directly benefit from an upward swing in prices. However, while Heim initially used investor funds to purchase coins, he soon fell behind as the price of gold and silver increased, and later altogether ceased using investor funds for legitimate purposes.
Altogether, nearly 50 victims would lose over $4 million in the scheme, which collapsed in early 2011.