Former Gold Coin Dealer Sentenced to 51 Months
PORTLAND, Ore. - On Wednesday, October 31, 2012, Lawrence H. Heim, 76, formerly of Tigard, Oregon, was sentenced by the Honorable Marco A. Hernandez in United States District Court, to 51 months in federal prison for his role in stealing more than $4 million from 48 victims in a gold investment scam. Judge Hernandez also ordered Heim to pay $4,057,003.87 in restitution to his victims. Heim had pleaded guilty to wire fraud on May 30, 2012.
For many years, Lawrence Heim, aka Larry Heim, operated a gold and silver coin business called U.S. Gold & Silver Investments, Inc. (USGSI) in Portland, Oregon. Heim was the president of USGSI, and hosted a radio program where he discussed the current and projected prices of gold and silver. He also had a website for USGSI at www.noirs.com/invest. and provided his "calculation" of the future value of gold on the website. Heim promised to sell gold and silver to USGSI customers who either mailed or wired their investment money from locations across the country. Many of Heim's clients were elderly individuals who had used large portions of their retirement savings to purchase the coins as an investment. In 2009, Heim fell behind in his coin purchases, as the value of gold and silver rose. Heim began operating USGSI as a "Ponzi" scheme, using new investors' funds to make purchases of gold and silver coins for more established customers. Heim then lied and used excuses in order to reassure investors that he was purchasing coins on their behalf. Heim never made coin purchases for his newer customers, and the entire scheme eventually collapsed in early 2011.
"Financial fraud schemes are serious crimes that have a devastating impact on victims," said U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall. "The sentence in this case sends a clear message that these crimes won't be tolerated, and that prosecution will result in serious consequences."
"Ponzi schemes come in all shapes, sizes and colors - including gold and silver," said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. "Many people have simply trusted that the precious metals market was a safe bet in a down economy. This case demonstrates that you must always be cautious about how and with whom you invest your money."
The case was jointly investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Claire M. Fay.