LOS ANGELES – A British national was sentenced today to 36 months in federal prison for defrauding over 100 investors out of more than $8 million through a scheme that sold “ancient slag,” a mining waste byproduct that supposedly contained precious metals.
Michael Godfree, 80, a United Kingdom citizen who resides in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who also ordered Godfree to pay $8,336,965 in restitution.
Godfree pleaded guilty in December 2021 to one count of mail fraud.
From 2011 to November 2017, Godfree schemed to defraud victim-purchasers of material he identified as “ancient slag” and “gold ore.” He was co-founder of The Minerals Acquisition Company (TMAC), a Pasadena-based outfit that offered to sell slag to victims who were told the company would be able to extract precious metals from this slag, which was generated from copper mining. TMAC sold ton-quantities of the slag with promises of refining the material and recovering precious metals. TMAC provided victims with supposedly attorney-certified “Certificates of Title” that purported to transfer ownership of the slag to victims.
Godfree fraudulently induced the victims to buy the “ancient slag” by falsely stating the “ancient slag” was valuable because it contained precious metals and a process would soon be available that could extract the precious metals supposedly in the slag.
In fact, Godfree and TMAC did not actually own most of the slag they sold, there was not a commercially viable process for extracting precious metals from the slag, and the business operation had not been endorsed by a lawyer.
Acting on Godfree’s false promises, victims sent the company money by mailing checks to the TMAC offices in Pasadena and by wiring money to accounts that Godfree controlled. Godfree used the funds to pay for his personal expenses.
In total, Godfree and TMAC caused losses of approximately $8,336,965 to the victims of their fraud.
TMAC was dissolved in 2015, but its operations were largely taken over by Precious Metals of North America Inc., another of Godfree’s companies.
“Godfree was nothing more than a glorified conman,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “At bottom, [Godfree] was selling nothing more than worthless dirt (that he generally didn’t own) along with a non-existent ‘process’ to extract value from the dirt…. Unsurprisingly, not a single victim-purchaser has ever seen any return on their purchase. Instead, the money was spent on lavish goods and personal expenses for [Godfree].”
The FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Bruce K. Riordan of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.