By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
Unkefer's attorneys argue that the restitution order is no longer valid, though Superior Court Judge John Hannah Jr. ruled in September 2009 that it is.
A hearing on the matter is set for July 14 before the Arizona Court of Appeals.
"It didn't wipe us out, but you don't like to lose that kind of money," Walls says.
He's thought about buying gold in the past year as prices have gone up, "but I don't know who to trust."
Dr. Enrique Scappatura, a Phoenix thoracic surgeon, bought 50 100-ounce tablets of silver from Sheffield Metals in 1992 with money he'd pulled out of his pension fund.
"They weighed a ton — I said, 'Leave it there,'" Scappatura says. "I trusted him."
Big mistake. He never saw the silver — or his money — when Sheffield went bankrupt. He recently learned that Clark is now the owner of Republic Monetary Exchange, he tells New Times, and plans to confront him "to see if he's got some piece of a conscience left."
Wisely, the good doctor doesn't just want the $25,000 back he paid for the silver — he wants the metal itself, which now goes for nearly four times what he paid.
Clark's lawyer, John Jakubcyzk, says Clark was contemplating giving some money back to Dr. Scappatura and another local victim but hadn't yet made up his mind.
Apparently, no similar offer is being considered for folks who lost big money on Sheffield, like Walls or the rest of the victims.
How much money Republic Monetary Exchange is pulling in for Clark could not be determined. Though the business' Web site mentions nine brokers employed by the company as commissioned salespeople, the business is also somewhat of a family affair: three of Clark's children work there.
Old newspaper articles and court records back up Clark's contention that he didn't profit from the scam. He was initially charged with 99 counts of fraud and other crimes, yet prosecutors let him plead no contest to just two charges of selling securities without a license.
Essentially, Clark mismanaged his company and wound up selling some of his customers' stored metal, or diverting the proceeds of purchases, to put down payments on loans to buy more precious metals. Had the gamble worked, no one would have been the wiser and Clark's business would have profited.
But when the price of silver rose suddenly, too many customers called them to sell their non-existent treasures, and Clark ran out of money to pay them. The company only had $1.2 million in assets (including just $340,000 in gold and silver) when it filed for bankruptcy, which was nearly $6 million less than it owed, court records state.
As noted, the court ordered Clark to pay $1.5 million in restitution for the Sheffield scam — and that was on top of the $3.5 million he was ordered to pay after 100,000 ounces of silver owned by Margaret Viall of California went missing in the North American Coin scandal a decade earlier.
Clark maintains he was the fall guy for the boiler-room bankers who helped bring in customers. Miller, the former Republic Monetary employee, says Clark mentioned the fate of his former victims from time to time.
"I had asked him specifically if he was paying these people back, and he didn't intend to," says Miller, who now helps run a gold-selling company owned by family members in Scottsdale, Desert Gold Exchange. "His attitude was, eff 'em."
Clark felt that after serving seven months in prison and being banned from the business for 10 years, he'd paid his debt to society, Miller says.
He and Desert Gold Exchange (started by his stepson and son-in-law) are now being sued by Republic Monetary Exchange for stealing company secrets, client lists, and about 10 ounces in gold.
But Miller, who denies the allegations, has a new code of ethics since getting busted himself in 2004 for mail fraud.
In the late 1990s, Miller ran a local business called Southwest International Trading Company, which dealt in collectible coins. Miller sold gold and silver coins with a guarantee to buy them back within one year at their original sales price. It was an effective come-on, but one that Miller couldn't sustain after another decline in the price of gold in 2000. To stay afloat, he lent money to some customers who sent him their purchased coins as collateral. But once he received them, Miller and his wife, Grace, sold the coins to pay bills.
After serving 18 months in a federal prison, Miller was ordered to pay back $425,000. Unlike Clark, he says he's made a significant dent in the restitution amount by sacrificing 25 percent of his earnings every month. He claims to have paid back $80,000 of the total.
Ironically, Republic Monetary's strategy in its lawsuit against Desert Gold is to shut down the company, which would end the Millers' main source of income even as Clark refuses to pay back his own victims.
The other side of the gold business, so to speak, is perhaps the most publicly visible one. Anyone driving around town in the past year or two can't help noticing the proliferation of "We Buy Gold" signs on storefronts and street corners.