The CEO of Republic Monetary Exchange may be an ex-con, but that doesn't mean the gold-selling company itself is untrustworthy, says a manager for the Phoenix-based firm.
James Clark, who shares the name of his CEO father, took issue with the article New Times published today about gold and some of the unscrupulous characters who plagued the industry in the past.
Clark's dad was one of those characters. So was another man now tied to Republic Monetary Exchange, Sherman Unkefer.
As New Times reported, both men served time in prison for schemes related to the sale of precious metals. Unkefer's deceased wife's trust provided much of the capital for the start-up of Republic two years ago.
The younger Clark says he won't try to "defend the undefensible," and that he knows his father made "mistakes."
However, he argues in a cheerful tone, Republic Monetary is on the up-and-up and doesn't deserve to be painted with a broad brush.
As we reported, Republic Monetary's CEO served seven months in prison back in the 1990s and was banned from owning a precious-metals company until 2006 following his conviction for selling unregistered securities. In that mess, the elder Clark promised to store his customers' gold and silver, but didn't. Instead, he used his customers' money to buy futures in the precious metals market -- and later went bankrupt.
Clark failed to pay the restitution of $1.5 million in that case, nor did he pay a $3.5 million judgment that resulted from another failed company he once worked for, North American Coin and Currency.
The North American case also involved "missing" metals -- court records show that victims were owed a total of $16 million when the company collapsed.
Unkefer was North American Coin's former president. He was convicted of fraud and served five years of a 10-year prison sentence before being paroled.
Clark's son, now Republic Monetary's vice-president of sales, says similar problems won't arise at the new company.
For one thing, no gold or silver is stored at Republic. Buyers take possession of their metals right away, he says -- the only exception is when customers buy gold for their IRA, in which case Republic ships the metal to a certified IRA custodian company to be held in trust.
Clark says he employs "top-end" brokers at the firm who aren't merely out to make a quick buck, but he admits the firm's gold is sold at premiums that are neither the highest nor the lowest in town.
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Our feature article today mentioned bluntly that New Times has no evidence that Republic Monetary is doing anything unscrupulous. And Clark's son says the place is reputable.
We expect our readers to make what they will of the checkered past of Clark and Unkefer. Our only advice to would-be gold buyers: Shop around and make sure you get the best deal before you plunk down your cash.
UPDATE: Republic's founders, Unkefer and Jim Clark, ended up suing each other. Here's the article we published in September of 2012 about the lawsuit and the details it dredged up: