SANTA FE — The Securities Division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (NMRLD), in partnership with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and 29 other state regulators, announced this week that they have reached a settlement with the precious metals dealer Safeguard Metals LLC and Jeffrey Ikahn following a February 2022 federal lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
The lawsuit alleged that Safeguard and Ikahn engaged in a $68 million fraudulent scheme that targeted the elderly.
A key finding in the Consent Order is that between October 2017 and July 2021, Safeguard and Ikahn deceived more than 450 customers nationwide into purchasing precious metals through false and misleading statements, including misrepresenting Safeguard’s and Ikahn’s credentials at the risk and safety of customer investments in traditional retirement accounts.
The Securities Division’s investigation determined there were seven New Mexico investors who purchased $2.4 million of precious metals from Safeguard.
“Safeguard Metals engaged in fraudulent and deceptive practices to solicit millions of dollars primarily from elderly and retirement-aged individuals for profit. As a result, customers suffered substantial losses on their retirement investments,” said Securities Division Acting Director Benjamin Schrope. “By joining this settlement, in partnership with the CFTC and other state regulators, the New Mexico Securities Division continues its efforts to protect consumers by holding bad actors in the precious metals industry accountable for their actions.”
The Order also finds that the defendants charged an average markup of 51% to 71% on the precious metals, which was substantially more than the amounts the defendants represented in Safeguard Metals’ customer agreements as “operating margins” of 23% to 42%. Safeguard Metals steered over 97% of its sales from mostly inexperienced investors into overpriced silver coins which had significantly higher markups than gold coins and generated approximately $66 million for Safeguard Metals.
As part of the court approved settlement, Safeguard and Ikahn agreed to a permanent injunction that enjoins them from violating several federal and state laws including laws that prohibit commodities fraud, securities and investment adviser fraud, and providing unlicensed investment advice.
In the next phase of the litigation, the appropriate amount of customer restitution and civil monetary penalties will be determined.
The Securities Division encourages investors to contact the division if they suspect they have been targeted by similar precious metals investment schemes. Please contact the New Mexico Securities Division at 1.800.704.5533 or by visiting rld.nm.gov/securities-division.