It's the primary advertiser for conservative radio station KFYI (550 AM), which broadcasts "from the Republic Monetary Exchange studios," and nationally syndicated right-wing talk-show host Mike Gallagher, whose show airs on "the Patriot" (960 AM)

The company was founded by smart and personable convicted criminals.

Owner Jim Clark's an affable salesman who can turn on the charm when he wants. He has a hard side, though: He's staunchly right wing and has made headlines for wearing his pro-Arizona Senate Bill 1070 T-shirt to a Phoenix Suns game. He made big donations to Ron Paul's campaign. He attends a Phoenix church that holds all-Latin masses, yet he becomes emotional when speaking of the "enemies" of the Catholic Church, who include the current pope, in his opinion.

Accused of ripping off clients of Sheffield Metals, Clark served seven months in prison in the mid-'90s before launching Republic in 2008 with the help of his former business partner from infamously failed North American Coin and Currency, Sherman Unkefer III.

The early-'80s collapse of the Phoenix-based North American Coin company, which may have done $1 billion a year in business at one point, was the subject of headlines for years afterward. Hundreds of victims were out millions of dollars when the business unexpectedly declared bankruptcy in 1982. More than one type of fraud was committed, investigators later found. In the worst cases, clients who'd trusted North American to store sacks of gold and silver learned that its vaults had been cleaned out.

The aforementioned New Times article detailed some of the ex-cons' history as it explored various aspects of the modern-day gold craze.

Until the article was published, few knew that Unkefer, who was convicted of fraud in 1988 and served five years of a 10-year sentence before he was paroled, was a partner at the high-profile Republic Monetary Exchange. Corporate paperwork showed the owners were Jim Clark, his wife, his other company (Clark & Sons Vending), and a mystery company from California called Occidental Resources Group.

Unkefer's involvement was hidden from public view — shielded by complex layers of shell companies and trust funds. On paper, Unkefer owns virtually nothing himself.

The reason: The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is focused on him, hoping to force him to pay all or part of a $7.5 million criminal-restitution order from 1988. Hundreds of fraud victims have been waiting decades for the day that Unkefer forks over his fortune to them.

And that day appears to be growing closer — thanks, in part, to the lawsuit between Unkefer and Clark, which put more of Unkefer's financial documents into the hands of county lawyers.Most of the facts in this story come from numerous court files related to the pair, as well as from interviews with key players, including Jim Clark.

Unkefer, who lives in Scottsdale, declined to comment for this article.

Unkefer and Clark were friends when they founded the company and were friendly for a while even after the lawsuit was filed. But they should have known better than to trust each other.

Clark seems to have fired the first shot in the war by failing to pay Unkefer and his associates what they claimed they were owed.

Unkefer thought he was a 30 percent owner in Republic and that he should get distributions of profits. But Clark kept a significant portion of Republic profits for himself, the lawsuit alleges, while Unkefer's holding company was stuck with a proportional share of tax bills.

Helping both Clark and county lawyers are Mark and Harley Davidson, the adult sons of Unkefer's deceased wife, Sharon. They're potential beneficiaries of their mother's lucrative trust account, which they say Unkefer is misusing. They've filed a separate lawsuit against their stepfather that seeks a full accounting of the trust's finances, and which may have the effect of wresting away control of the trust from Unkefer.

Because Unkefer used trust money to invest in Republic Monetary Exchange, Clark paid for the Davidsons' attorney in that suit, hoping to dislodge information that would be helpful to his own case against Unkefer.

The information has been of use to the government attorneys trying to force Unkefer to pay his debts.

As for Jim Clark and Republic Monetary Exchange — the allegations that surfaced in the lawsuit raise questions of whether this gold man, who once gambled and lost his customers' money, is up to old tricks.


Clark and Unkefer launched their business in mid-2008, which was great timing.

The price of gold has more than doubled since then, going from about $800 an ounce to more than $1,600. The spectacular climb, combined with fears of economic collapse stirred up by right-wing talk-show hosts, has caused a frenzied demand for gold not seen since the 1980s. Gold was about $1,200 an ounce when New Times published the 2010 article, which quoted experts saying (accurately, in hindsight) that the price was expected to keep rising. Silver prices also have gone up.

After peaking last August at more than $1,900 an ounce, however, gold has become a shakier investment. It's been bouncing around $1,700. The latest estimates predict a continued rise in the price of gold through 2013.

Still, when Mike Gallagher tells listeners that they should buy from Republic because gold is "smart, safe, and profitable," they should exercise caution.

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6 comments
rawilson
rawilson

I knew the Unkefers back in their Pre Paid Legal days.  Smooth talker, that Unkefer.  His wife Sharon was a jewel.  It makes me sick to my stomach to realize he was hiding behind her all along.  She was a hard worker, worked her fingers to the bone for that man.  I know for a fact that her four sons were her top priority and she would do anything for them. If she knew what was going on now... that her "beloved" husband was screwing over her four sons and her grandchildren, AND that he is literally screwing his first born son's wife, the mother of his own grandchildren, who was also the Unkefer's secretary... Oh my God.  This man is the scum of the earth. The BIGGEST hypocrite of them all. Go get him, Davidsons! 

shadeaur14
shadeaur14

I would like to bone that whore Laudry

larry
larry

I think a guy who didles his sons ex wife has got to be a real sleazeball.

fairymagic13
fairymagic13

I've worked in law firms for 24 years and this kind of crap happens ALL THE TIME!!!  I don't mind when the "job creators" do this stuff to each other, but when they hurt other people who aren't "job creators" I think they should be held against a wall and each of their victims should get to knee them in the balls.  There's a State of Arizona Bar Association board which deals with regulation of the lawyers - lawyers who are supposed to tell their clients when something is illegal - and that board doesn't seem to be getting the point across to the attorneys in this case that they're going to be held responsible for their inaction and even aiding the commission of white collar crimes.  

 

shadeaur14
shadeaur14

@fairymagic13 This kind of shit started once that Kenyan took office. No leadership at the top....

 
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