Memphis family targeted Christians, stole $21M in Ponzi scheme

Memphis family targeted Christians, stole $21M in Ponzi scheme

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Memphis family was convicted of stealing $21 million from 360 victims in a decade-long gold and silver Ponzi scheme.

Larry Bates, his two sons Chuck and Robert Bates, and his wife Kinsey Bates, were found guilty on all charges of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy.

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced the conviction Wednesday.

According to prosecutors, the family ran a decade-long Ponzi scheme by buying and selling gold and silver coins.

Over 360 victims lost more than $21 million due to the illegal scheme that lasted from early 2002 to October 2013.

"Unfortunately, fraud, corruption and embezzlement can occur everywhere, including in the investment world," Acting U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi said.

The defendants promoted their business through a variety of Christian television and radio programs, including the Jim Baker Showplus Jewish Voice.

Larry Bates, a self-proclaimed doctor of economics, held conferences across the nation predicting an economic collapse and emphasizing the need to invest in precious metals.

Between 2007-2013, customers gave more than $87 million to First American Monetary Consultants for the purpose of buying precious metals. During that same period, the Bates family diverted those funds to their personal accounts.

As of 2009, the company had $26 million in unfilled customer orders.

Bates used $4 million of the funds to create International Radio Network, a Christian radio network. The money was also used to build a 10,000 sq foot home on 300 acres of property in Middleton, as well as purchasing other commodities.

More than 45 witnesses testified about losing money to Bates and First American Monetary Consultants.

Larry Bates was convicted on 46 counts of mail and wire fraud. Chuck Bates was convicted of 18 counts. Robert Bates convicted of five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy. Kinsey Bates was convicted on one count of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud.

Each count carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison and possible fine of $25,000.

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