Precious metals dealer alleged to have targeted retirees in $68 million fraud
(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – Attorney General Alan Wilson and Secretary of State Mark Hammond announced today that South Carolina, in partnership with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and 29 other state regulators, have reached a settlement with precious metals dealer Safeguard Metals, LLC and Jeffrey Ikahn, a/k/a Jeffrey S. Santulan and Jeff Hill. The settlement follows a 2022 enforcement action that alleged that Safeguard and Ikahn engaged in a nationwide, $68 million scheme involving the sale of fraudulently overpriced silver coins to elderly and retirement-aged persons.
Safeguard Metals marketed, promoted, and sold precious metals, primarily consisting of gold and silver coins. In marketing these coins, Safeguard claimed that they were worth more than the value of the precious metal in the coins themselves. Although Safeguard represented that a typical markup (called the operating margin) was between 20% and 23%, the markup on silver coins was routinely more than 40% and as high as 71%. Safeguard advertised on websites, financial media, and social media platforms, including platforms and websites linked to media personalities and financial gurus. Safeguard used pressure and scare tactics to convince mostly elderly and retirement-aged persons to transfer their retirement savings and other assets into a self-directed individual retirement account (a “SDIRA”) in order to purchase precious metals. The Consent Order states that between October 2017 and July 2021, Safeguard and Ikahn deceived more than 450 customers nationwide into purchasing precious metals with their retirement savings. Safeguard and Ikahn not only misrepresented their own credentials to customers, but also the risk and safety of customer investments in traditional retirement accounts.
“Safeguard Metals used fraudulent and deceptive practices to solicit millions of dollars from vulnerable retirees, resulting in substantial losses in their retirement accounts,” said Attorney General Wilson. “South Carolina, along with the CFTC and other state regulators, will continue to hold these bad actors accountable in the precious metals industry.“ Secretary Hammond stated, “Today, I am pleased to join Attorney General Wilson and stand up for South Carolinians against this insidious type of financial exploitation.”
As part of the settlement, which is subject to court approval, Safeguard and Ikahn have agreed to a permanent injunction that prohibits them from violating several federal and state laws, including laws prohibiting commodities, securities and investment adviser fraud and providing unlicensed investment advice. Additionally, in the State of South Carolina, Ikahn agreed to be barred from acting as an investment advisor, investment advisor representative, broker dealer, or agent in connection with the offer, sale, or purchase of any security, directly or indirectly, and from selling commodities when not registered with the CFTC as a futures commission merchant or as a leverage transaction merchant, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) as a broker-dealer, or as an otherwise exempt entity. After the court approves the settlement, the appropriate amount of customer restitution and civil monetary penalties will be determined either by the court or by agreement of the parties.
The Consent Order is filed in the United States District Court, for the Central District of California, Civil Action No. 2:22-cv-00691-JFW-SK, and can be accessed through the Public Access to Court Electronics Records (PACER) system at https://pacer.uscourts.gov. On June 14, 2023, Safeguard and Ikahn also agreed to settle a lawsuit that was brought independently by the SEC in SEC v. Safeguard Metals, Case No. 2:22-cv-00693-JFW (C.D. Cal.), that invoked the same conduct and included similar admissions and findings.
With the issues involved in this case implicating both securities and commodities laws, the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General’s Securities Division worked together with the South Carolina Secretary of State. The Attorney General is the South Carolina Securities Commissioner and is authorized to regulate the securities industry within the State of South Carolina pursuant to the South Carolina Uniform Securities Act of 2005, S.C. Code Ann. §§ 35-1-101, et seq. The Secretary of State is the Commodities Administrator and is authorized to regulate the commodities industry within the State of South Carolina pursuant to the South Carolina Commodities Code, S.C. Code Ann. §§ 39-73-10, et seq.
Attorney General Wilson and Secretary Hammond would like to thank the CFTC, the other state plaintiffs, and the SEC for their assistance and cooperation with reaching the Consent Order. Furthermore, Attorney General Wilson and Secretary Hammond encourage investors interested in precious metals to be vigilant and to investigate any precious metals company’s claims about proposed investments in precious metals. Resources include a Fraud Advisory by the CFTC regarding precious metals fraud and an Informed Investor Alert by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) regarding investing in gold. The Attorney General’s Office provides investor education and outreach on its website under the Securities Division tab.
The South Carolina Office of the Attorney General, Securities Division, can be reached by calling 803-734-9916 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Investors can submit a complaint or learn more about the Securities Division by visiting the Attorney General’s Office website at https://www.scag.gov/inside-the-office/legal-services-division/securities/.
The South Carolina Secretary of State’s Investigations Division can be reached by calling 803-734-2170 or by filling out an online form at https://www.sos.sc.gov/contact/investigations. To learn more about the Secretary of State’s Office, visit its website at https://www.sos.sc.gov.