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(Kitco News) - The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is charging a South Carolina-based firm with operating a $90 million Ponzi scheme, fraudulently offering contracts on silver sales, but never actually purchasing any metal, the agency said late Wednesday.

The CFTC charged Ronnie Gene Wilson and Atlantic Bullion & Coin, Inc, both of Easley, S.C., with violating the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, saying they have operated a Ponzi scheme dating back as far as 2001 and continuing through Feb. 29, 2012. The complaint against Wilson and Atlantic Bullion & Coin was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of South Carolina, Anderson Division.

In the suit, the CFTC said Wilson and Atlantic Bullion & Coin fraudulently obtained at least $90.1 million from at least 945 investors. The CFTC said it has jurisdiction over the two from Aug. 11, 2011 to Feb. 29 under new provisions contained in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

During the August to February timeframe, Wilson and Atlantic Bullion & Co are alleged to have fraudulently obtained at least $11.53 million from at least 237 investors in 16 states under contracts of sale to buy silver but never actually bought the metal. Instead, the CFTC charges that they allegedly misappropriated all of the investors’ funds and to conceal their fraud, issued phony account statements to investors.

The CFTC said it will seek restitution to defrauded investors, a return of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws if successful in its suit.

By Debbie Carlson of Kitco News dcarlson@kitco.com

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