Secret Service Agent Tom Griffin speaks to investors of Atlantic Bullion & Coin during a meeting Monday at Tri County Technical College’s Easley Campus. The meeting, attended by approximately 250 people, was set up by state Rep. Joshua Putnam and state Senator Kevin Bryant. Officials from the Attorney General’s office, the U. S. Secret Service and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) were at the meeting.
Investigators Field Questions
By Stan Welch
More than 250 people, mostly bilked investors, gathered at the Easley campus of Tri-County Technical College Monday night, to hear encouragement and a progress report on the investigation into the Atlantic Bullion and Coin Company and its owner, Ron Wilson.
Representatives from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, SLED, and the United States secret Service were on hand in an extraordinary public appearance; a fact that Senior Assistant Attorney General Tracy Meyers stressed.
“This is highly unusual for this Office, or any of these other agencies, to appear before the public, but we feel it is important to meet with you and tell you where things stand and what we need to do next. We also need your help in gathering information.”
To that end, questionnaires were handed out to the audience to be filled in and returned to the AG’s office in Columbia. Those questionnaires addressed such issues as how customers learned about AB&C; what type of investment was made; the name of the representative who opened their account; and when the account was opened.
She explained that the 1996 consent order signed by Wilson dealt only with his pledge not to move into the sale of securities. “I was with the AG’s office at that time and we considered that consent order to be an achievement, because Wilson contested our claim that he was selling securities, saying instead that he was involved in retail sales of actual coins and precious metals, and not securities.”
She also addressed the issue of why that consent order wasn’t public knowledge, which investors claim could have warned them of the nature of Wilson’s business, which Meyers described as a long running Ponzi scheme.
“In 1996, the internet simply wasn’t the tool it is today. It was very difficult to put such information into the public domain for more than a day or so. Newspaper stories were gone in a day. Now, such orders are routinely posted on our website. But that simply wasn’t an option then.”
As to what lies ahead, Meyers said she would be very surprised if the AG doesn’t amend their original complaint, adding both victims and defendants to the case. “We have identified sales agents and expect to identify more. If someone has received commissions, they need to return the money, or be added to the complaint, or both.”
In addition, she urged anyone who hosted sales seminars or silver parties, as she called them, to contact the AG’s office. “It would be a very good idea to reach out to us before we reach out to you,” she warned.
Meyers stressed that Wilson and his attorney are cooperating with the AG’s Office. It was stated that a hearing scheduled for this week at which the AG’s Office plans to seek a temporary injunction, freezing Wilson’s assets and appointing a receiver to handle the liquidation and distribution of those assets, might be unnecessary due to Wilson’s cooperation.
She stated that if the case became a federal one, she would anticipate that the federal courts would also appoint a receiver. “In that case, I would suggest letting them handle it, instead of having two receivers. In my experience, federally appointed receivers are thorough and professional in their duties.”
Meyers was followed by Thomas Griffin, resident Agent in Charge of the Greenville Secret Service office. He also stressed how unusual the meeting was. “We never even acknowledge our investigations, much less talk about them. But the numbers here, in terms of dollars as well as potential victims, are pretty staggering. We have extra agents on hand to help with interviews, and if I need more, I’ll bring them in. We need your help, so call to schedule an interview if you haven’t done so.”
Griffin asked that people be patient. “I know you are anxious, but a criminal case, if one is made, takes time. Give us time to make that case. We can’t just arrest people without cause. But we are after justice for you all and we are getting there at a good pace. This is an accelerated investigation, moving at a pace usually unheard of in the business I’m in.”
Griffin also addressed the public’s fears that Wilson wasn’t in custody and might flee. “I am very, very comfortable that Mr. Wilson won’t be leaving the United States,” he said.
Senator Kevin Bryant and Rep. Joshua Putnam , who put the meeting together, both expressed their sympathy and promised to pursue legislation they recently introduced to require the publication of such cease and desist orders as the one Wilson signed, then allegedly ignored.
Sen. Larry Martin, of neighboring Pickens County, pointed out that during the Carolina Investors/Home Gold debacle, the General Assembly spent a great deal of time and effort in creating the funding structure to pay for such an extensive investigation. “That field has been plowed. This time, the framework is in place for the process to function. Justice will be done, just as it was in that case. People said no one would be arrested, and no one would serve any time. But they were and they did.”
See related story – Legislation being introduced