Advertising in magazines such as Christianity Today and World, Armand DeAngelis and his wife, Marcela, raised $5 million by touting "rare" gold coins. The U.S. Department of Justice says there was nothing rare about them.
In April, the couple was indicted in Miami and charged with mail fraud and money laundering. The feds say the couple owned three companies, one of which was used to pump up the apparent value of the gold coins. One customer bought a set of four gold coins for $3,560, when the coins were worth $37.50, according to The Miami Herald.
"Unbeknownst to investors, the defendants had purchased low-grade gold coins and had them graded at a higher grade by Twenty-First Century Grading Service, Inc., a company owned and operated by Armand A. DeAngelis," according to the Southern District of Florida office of the Justice Department. DeAngelis operated his reputed gold coin scam for years.
Pennsylvania resident Ken Viall was having money problems when he decided to purchase the coins. He wanted to supplement his pension before retiring. Now $16,000 poorer, Viall, 62, has been campaigning for nine years to shut down the fraud.
"Armand read me; he played me," Viall said. "It took me years to figure out what happened. [DeAngelis] is a very clever, golden-tongue salesman."
Since then, Viall has been collecting information from others who lost money in the scheme. Some lost up to $300,000, Viall said. He turned over his information to investigators at the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It took years before an investigation was finally launched, however.
Barry Minkow, pastor of Community Bible Church in San Diego and fraud investigator for the Fraud Discovery Institute, has seen it before. Minkow spent ...1