December 14, 2010:

Four men at a now-defunct South Florida precious metal company have been charged with stealing up to $1.3 million from investors who wanted to capitalize on the rising prices of gold and silver. The president of The Bullion Trading Group and three company brokers face mail fraud charges, accused by federal prosecutors of diverting clients’ funds for their personal use. The business had offices in West Palm Beach and Stuart, soliciting customers across the country from March 2008 to March 2009, court records show.

The head of The Bullion Trading Group – Christopher A. Kertatos, 40, of Orlando – and the brokers, Richard Eugene Engel, Robert Mitchael Henry and Richard Lutz, have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are to be tried at the Fort Pierce federal courthouse. All four are now free on bond.

Within the past three years, South Florida has seen a proliferation of precious metals firms offering investors a chance to buy actual gold and silver rather than trading the metals on paper. Court rulings since 2004 have placed such companies outside the reach of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the government agency that oversees the commodity and financial futures markets. The attached Kertatos Indictment outlines one such scam.

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