Cover Story: Heads You Lose, Tails You Lose

You’ve probably seen the ads for rare coins, maybe while waiting to get a cavity filled. They run in stodgy mainstream pubs such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. If you looked closely, you saw at the bottom of the page, in itty-bitty type, a disclosure: “We may contact you from time to time regarding items of interest.”

Sounds benign, right?

Well, what it actually means is that commission-hungry salespeople operating out of boiler rooms will hound you with late-night phone calls and pie-in-the-sky promises of safe, stellar investments, according to multiple pending lawsuits filed by scores of disgruntled former customers who claim they were misled and bullied into squandering millions on grossly overvalued coins. Many are elderly and suffer from serious health problems.

This week’s feature offers an inside look at several related Beaumont-based rare-coin companies that use direct advertising to attract customers and then inundate them with high-pressure sales pitches. Several former salespeople admitted in depositions to regularly lying to customers about the value and origins of coins, making unauthorized credit card charges and using religion to gain trust.

They said they were instructed to use these strong-arm tactics by the companies’ managers and owners, including prominent coin expert, award-winning author and occasional CNBC pundit Michael Fuljenz.

The rare-coin market is unregulated. The Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General of Texas have received numerous complaints against the East Texas companies, but neither has taken action.

To many of the victims, it seems nobody has been paying any attention. Until now. – Todd Spivak

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