CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Better Business Bureau is alerting retirees and other investors about the business practices of First American Monetary Consultants (FAMC), a Colorado business run by Larry Bates.
Bates, a former Tennessee state legislator, is CEO of FAMC and the Information Radio Network/IRN USA Radio News. He has also published various books and newsletters, and conducts conferences and appears on religious radio programs. Bates and his associates use these forums to promote the purchase of gold, silver and precious metals as protection against upcoming economic disaster.
Consumers who trusted Bates' investment advice that he espouses to be based on "Biblical principles" have complained to Better Business Bureau that their purchases of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold and silver coins and other precious metals were not delivered. Some reported that, after considerable delay, they only received a small portion of their purchase or received products they did not order.
A northeast Ohio senior called BBB to report she had invested her retirement savings – a sum totaling more than $160,000 – based on FAMC's advice to "storm proof" her assets. She purchased gold coins in May 2011. She was introduced to Bates through his books and his appearances on Christian radio and television programs. To date, she has only received two dozen 20 francs worth about $400 each – a tiny fraction of her investment. FAMC has not responded to her complaint.
FAMC has dozens of similar complaints in its "F"-rated file at BBB and has left recent complaints unanswered.
In January, a class action lawsuit was filed in Tennessee against FAMC and Bates individually along with Bates' Radio Information Network, INC/IRN USA Radio News; Information Radio Network/IRN USA Radio News; Information Radio Network Inc.
The lawsuit alleges that FAMC "…specifically targets devout, Christian believers, elderly individuals, and widow/widowers with significant life savings, all who are seeking advice and help from a trusted Christian advisor and/or a Christian financial company."
The lawsuit seeks $80 million in damages and injunctive relief on a list of claims, including of breach of contract, fraud, conspiracy, and mail and wire fraud.
The BBB advises consumers to do their research before investing in coins or precious metals. Talk to professionals about the value of various coins and metals and their potential as long term investments.
If Ohioans have questions about gold-related investments, they can also call the Ohio Division of Securities Investor Protection Hotline at 1-877-683-7841 to ask: Is the brokerage firm and salesperson licensed to sell securities in Ohio? Have any enforcement actions been taken against them? Has the security been properly registered with the Division of Securities?