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Restraining Order for American Silver and Gold 3/8/12
The better Business Bureau has released the following statement:
Attorney General brings action against AGT American Silver and Gold
Restraining order echoes BBB concerns about gold and silver bullion and coin dealer
PERMIAN BASIN, Texas — The Texas Attorney General froze the assets of AGT American Silver and Gold March 1, and issued a temporary restraining order against the owners of the Austin-area company, which sells gold and silver bullion and coins.
Lora Maestre and Rick Maestre, also known as David Winston, among others, are named in the action for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act for allegedly accepting payment for coins and bullion that the company never delivered.
Better Business Bureau began to investigate AGT American Silver and Gold last year, after it received complaints alleging some consumers paid thousands of dollars to the company for bullion and coins. many of those consumers are still waiting for portions of their gold and silver orders.
The AG order cites many of the same concerns BBB found during its investigation.
The restraining order forbids the defendants from engaging in deceptive practices, including offering a “100 percent guarantee” and “full money back,” but failing to honor said claims, misrepresenting the amount of inventory the company had available, and failing to deliver gold and silver coins purchased by consumers.
In addition, the order prohibits the defendants from “accepting any orders for precious metal coins until further order of the court.”
Frank Chmielinski turned to BBB when AGT American Silver and Gold took approximately $100,000 for silver and gold coins, but only delivered approximately $30,000 worth of goods. He wanted to buy gold and silver bullion and coins to diversify his investment portfolio, and had dealt with AGT American Silver and Gold two years prior. At that time, he bought $5,000 worth of gold and silver coins and everything had gone smoothly.
“This is all his fault,” Chmielinski said about Richard Maestre, one of the defendants named in the AG suit. “I’m a customer; I sent him my money in good faith.”
Maestre apparently ran into financial difficulties leading up to the AG action March 1. in January, some consumers who had complained to BBB received a letter from American Silver and Gold, LLC explaining that when silver prices dropped to $27 per ounce from a high of $52 per ounce, the company started to have trouble securing inventory.
The letter also states the company does not have enough inventory to fulfill current orders.
“To accommodate the inventory backlog, we ask that you agree to a six (6) to nine (9) month delay in the shipment of your order,” the letter reads. it goes on to promise delivery of additional coins valued at 10 percent of each customer’s order, excluding bullion.
Though the letter went out to AGT American Silver and Gold customers, the company name on the letterhead was not AGT American Silver and Gold, but simply American Silver and Gold, LLC. BBB could not find any record of AGT American Silver and Gold registering the shortened name with the Texas Secretary of State or the Travis County Clerk, nor could it find a second company registered using the name American Silver and Gold, LLC.
Prior to the action, John Gleichauf, another AGT American Silver and Gold customer, worried that any publicity might derail a settlement he reached with the company last year.
He said he talked with a portfolio manager who worked for AGT American Silver and Gold and after sending the company more than $50,000 to buy gold and silver, he only got a handful of coins.
Maestre contacted him about the shortfall soon after Gleichauf complained.
“He stated that they were just really beside themselves because … this portfolio manager that I was dealing with was a crook, was an alcoholic and he was essentially destroying the business,” Gleichauf said.
Maestre agreed to refund Gleichauf’s money, but then did not follow through with the deal. Gleichauf got an attorney involved, and soon had an agreement for the gold and silver dealer to pay Gleichauf $8,000 a month. Then Maestre said he could only pay $2,000 a month. Then it went down to $200.
Gleichauf said that through January and February payments trickled in, most for a few hundred dollars each.
“I’m not sure how to evaluate all this, but he’s in arrears to the tune of 34 to 35 thousand dollars,” he said. of his original payment, Gleichauf said he estimates he has gotten approximately $22,000 back.
Gleichauf said he believes Maestre’s claims that his problems were caused by a rogue portfolio manager. Chmielinski, the customer who paid $100,000 to buy bullion and coins from AGT American Silver and Gold, believes otherwise.
“He claims he’s trying to reorganize it, and he claims this and he claims that. … I just don’t believe all his babble.” Chmielinski said. “I’m ready to retire … and this guy is affecting that.”
Consumers who want to buy gold and silver bullion and coins should consider the following tips from BBB:
· do your research. before doing business with a gold and silver dealer, research the company thoroughly. Check the BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org, ask friends for references and check out any individual broker for government action.
· do not believe inflated claims. like any investment, gold and silver bullion and coin prices can be volatile. Avoid any company claiming such investments are a safe harbor and that downplays the risks involved.
· buy from the source. The United States Mint sells bullion and coins to investors and collectors. buy your gold and silver directly from the government.
· do not count on appreciation. many dealers sell gold and silver coins for an inflated price, promising the product will rise in value over time. many consumers who buy those products lose money when gold and silver prices fall.
Article source: http://www.cbs7kosa.com/news/details.asp?ID=33105
MARION, Va. —
Buyers with the International Coin Collectors Association are at the General Francis Marion Hotel in Marion through Saturday looking to help people convert valuables into cash.
ICCA “experts are looking to spend at least $250,000 buying items such as coin collections, antiques, vintage toys, rare musical instruments, and items from WWI, WWII, and the Civil War. Of course there is no obligation to sell, and there are no limits as to how many items people can bring in,” Korey Scott, ICCA media contact, said.
In a release, ICCA spokesman Dennis Couts said, “we hope to spend at least $200,000 while we are in town by purchasing people’s old coin collections, vintage bank notes, jewelry and diamonds. we buy a lot of class rings, mismatched earrings and broken necklaces. I encourage everyone to clean out their drawers, lock boxes and jewelry boxes, and bring their items to our show for a free evaluation and perhaps walk out a little richer!”
The Better Business Bureau gave ICCA parent company THR & Associates a rating of B+. the consumer protection agency said the factor lowering THR & Associates’ rating was “advertising issue(s) found by BBB.”
Boosting the company’s rating were “length of time business has been operating, complaint volume filed with BBB for business of this size, response to 17 complaints filed against business, resolution of complaints filed against business,” and “sufficient background information on this business” to rate it, BBB said.
The company resolved 17 consumer complaints related to advertising/sales, billing, delivery and product/service problems with BBB assistance, and made good faith efforts to resolve five others although customers remained dissatisfied, BBB said.
Some customers experienced “seller’s remorse,” BBB said.
The company set up shop last July at the Wytheville Meeting Center, where ICCA team manager Michael Lawson said about 90 percent of what the events gather is coins and currency, but sometimes people will walk in with antique cars, valuable sports memorabilia and old toys, the first item the company collected when it was founded 17 years ago.
Every customer has a one-on-one private consultation with a team representative called a buyer, who will examine the items, according to Lawson. Buyers assess the condition of the item, its collectability, rarity and gold or silver content and are trained to see distinguishing features such as key dates and mint marks. the buyer then enters the specific information into a computer, where an online research team at the Illinois headquarters computes the item’s worth at fair market value, Lawson said. Customers are under no obligation to sell the item. Depending on the size of the collection, a transaction can take as little as 10 minutes, and the waiting line on the busiest days can be as much as 10 to 15 people, Lawson said.Once the company purchases the item from the customer, the company then finds collectors, most of whom are private individuals, who are seeking the item.”I get to see all kinds of stuff,” said Michael Jones, a buyer with the company who was soon to be managing his own team. He’s dealt with people who have brought in 1800 gold coins, World War II Nazi memorabilia and graded Carson City Morgan silver dollars. Mostly, though, he likes interacting with the customers. One Wytheville customer said she was slightly disillusioned after coming in to swap out her silver coins because when she looked online at the potential price she could get, she failed to realize the figures she saw were “melted” prices. Federal laws, however, say that government issued currency can’t be melted down and sold as a commodity.An average budget for the team to spend on the items in one community is around $250,000, but sometimes, a very rare, collectible piece might walk through the door and team members will write a $30,000 check, according to Lawson. often, people will not always know the value of the coins they bring in. “They can have a $100 penny and not know it,” said Lawson. Lawson explained that because the company deals in volume, gathering coins and items from all over the world on a continual basis, it is usually more able to pay a higher price than an independently owned pawn shop, for example. Unlike a pawn shop, however, the ICCA team cannot purchase gold and silver jewelry since it doesn’t have a permanent storefront location, as required by the Code of Virginia.
Marion Town Clerk Cindy Stanley said Monday the company had secured a business license allowing them to deal in antiques and other goods. She and Town Attorney mark Fenyk explained that the Code of Virginia requires gold and silver jewelry dealers to be established in permanent locations, disqualifying traveling shows.
Amanda Evans contributed.
Anyone know of a way to ensure bullion coin is really what the dealer says without having to do an assay yourself? Is there some organization that certifies the legitimacy of gold dealers? or do you just have to go by the companies' general reputation and Better Business Bureau reputation? (A lot of the big name gold dealers have pretty bad BBB profiles! )
buy from the U.S. mint