About 1,000 victims who lost money back in the 1980s to Sherman Unkefer, the former head of a major precious metals firm in Phoenix, will be sought for possible restitution of $7.5 million.
The case was remanded back to trial court on September 21 by the state Court of Appeals, but it wasn't a big win for Unkefer, as we've chronicled.
At a hearing on Friday, a judge gave the Maricopa County Attorney's Office 60 days to try to locate all of the victims in the case to ensure they can receive the restitution, if it's granted, says Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the office. Unkefer's defense attorney asked for extra time to present his side, Cobb adds.
The next hearing is set for May, but Cobb says the timeline can be moved up if the process moves along quickly.
Unkefer's former firm, North American Coin and Currency, was a billion-dollar gold-and-silver firm that infamously collapsed in 1982, screwing over hundreds of investors and customers. We first came across his name while researching our July feature article about the modern gold craze.
Unkefer was released from prison in 1988 after serving eight years of a 10-year sentence, and now he's the star salesman of a major multi-level-marketing scheme, XanGo. We hear he was living in Scottsdale as late as 2010, but currently lives in San Diego. His deceased wife's trust helped fund the start-up of a high-profile gold-selling firm in Phoenix, Republic Monetary Exchange.
At this late date, every day that goes by in the restitution case could be crucial. Many of the victims weren't young back in 1982. Most of them probably have given up hope they'll ever see a penny. Several of the victims are owed hundreds of thousands. Others, like 85-year-old Robert Bartemus of Florida, lost only a few thousand. No matter what happens, they'll never see the full amount of their losses restored.
The restitution amount was capped at $7.5 million because of state law -- Unkefer really owed about $16 million to those hurt by North American.