A former Tennessee legislator who stole $20 million dollars in a gold coin Ponzi scheme was sentenced to prison on Tuesday.
The Commercial Appeal reports that Larry Bates, 73, will spend 21 years in federal prison and pay $20 million to various victims affected by his scam, which entailed selling and purchasing silver and gold coins.
Bates’ two sons and daughter-in-law were also convicted for their role in constructing the elaborate scheme. Bates and company built a multi-million-dollar empire by creating advertisements about economic and political strife and airing them on Christian media networks, including their own Information Radio Network Inc.
Bates claimed that the coins would protect buyers from economic and religious collapse, which he termed “Mystery Babylon.” Hundreds of people bought the coins—many never received them, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors said that Bates scammed as many as 400 people from 2012 through 2013. By 2009, Bates’ company had $26 million in unfilled orders from customers.
“Between 2007 and 2013, customers gave more than eighty-seven million dollars to First American Monetary Consultants for the purpose of buying precious metals. During this same period, the proof showed the defendant diverted customers’ monies that were to be used to purchase precious metals to the defendants own use and benefit,” a federal prosecutor explained in a press release.
A jury convicted Bates on 46 counts of fraud in May. His son, Chuck Bates, was previously sentenced to almost 13 years in prison and ordered to pay $19.6 million in damages, The Memphis Daily News reported.
“Your use of religion to gain trust is appalling,” US District Judge Sheryl Lipman told the 73-year-old in court.
Larry served in the Tennessee House as a Democrat from 1971 to 1976, The Commercial Appeal noted.
Sentencing for Larry’s other son, Robert Bates, and Robert’s wife, Kinsey Bates, is currently pending.
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