Larry Bates is a former Democratic state representative in Tennessee. He's going to be spending his golden years behind bars as the 73-year-old has been convicted of running a multi-million Ponzi scheme. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $21 million to the 400 or so customers he hustled.
Bates' two sons and daughter-in-law were also found guilty. The quartet was officially charged with, and convicted of, mail and wire fraud. Their scheme involved buying and selling gold and silver coins.
Bates was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1971 to 1976. A devout Christian, he promoted his Ponzi scheme on Christian TV and radio shows.
He was able to collect more than $87 million in the scam. People sent their money to First American Monetary Consultants, thinking they were investing in precious metals. In reality, Bates and his family kept that money for their own personal use. They bought a 10,000 square foot house, traded commodities, and created the $4 million Christian radio network called International Radio Network.
From 2002 to 2013, Bates swindled more than 360 people out of more than $21 million. The company had more than $26 million in unfilled orders by 2009. And, of course, like any good Ponzi scheme, Bates and company were using new customers' money to fulfill older customers' orders.
Bates' customers eventually started begging him for either their coins or their money back. Customers were offered a number of excuses such as the coins were coming from Europe and delayed, or they were scarce, or that the U.S. Mint was closed.
More than 45 people testified against Bates and detailed how they'd lost money investing with First American Monetary Consultants.
Larry Bates was convicted of all 46 counts he was accused of. Chuck Bates was found guilty of 18 counts of mail and wire fraud as well as one count of conspiracy. Robert Bates was convicted of five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy. Robert's wife Kinsey Bates was convicted on one count of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud.