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Commerce Department Investigation Unearths Multiple Allegations against Criminal Coin Dealer


Wed, Aug 13th, 2014
Posted in All State of Minnesota

SAINT PAUL, MN – A Minnesota Department of Commerce investigation of Wholesale Assets Worldwide, LLC (WAW), a company engaged in coin and precious metal dealings, and Dennis Charles Helmer has been cited in an indictment by the United States Attorney on 19 counts of wire fraud. This is the first significant investigation into allegations of bullion coin-related criminal conduct since the State of Minnesota was the first to pass legislation in 2013 to clean up various segments of the coin industry that has been plagued with unscrupulous business practices.

The 2013 bullion coin legislation requires bullion coin dealers to obtain a license and a surety bond. In addition, it also requires those who own a coin business or work directly with the public in selling or buying bullion coins to undergo and pass a background check – all done to protect Minnesota consumers.

“No longer can scam artists use bullion coins or collectible coins as an avenue to steal money in Minnesota,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “This case paints a clear picture of why this law was needed – it is intended to give Minnesota consumers peace of mind, knowing that coin dealers in Minnesota cannot be criminals hiding behind what otherwise appears to be a ‘legitimate business’ and that there are regulations in place to help protect their investments.”

Point-in-case, Helmer had multiple run-ins with the law in the past decade for convictions related to coin dealing. In 2002, Helmer was convicted of theft by swindle in Dakota County related to his operation of Golden Touch Investments, a coin dealership. Then, in 2006, Helmer was again convicted of theft by swindle – this time in Hennepin County related to his operation of Best Price Coins, Inc. Helmer was again convicted of theft by swindle in Hennepin County two years later, for his operation of Best Price Coins in addition to the company Wholesale Gold Coins.

Helmer did not disclose to his customers that he had three prior convictions for theft by swindle related to his work with coin dealerships. Using the aliases Jeff Jones, Mr. Diamond, or Dennis Diamon, Helmer continued to buy, store, and sell coins. The Commerce Department began investigating Helmer and his companies Wholesale Assets Worldwide, LLC, Wholesale Antiques, LLC, and Smoke Shack, LLC in 2013, which resulted in the closure of the companies and their prohibition from operating in Minnesota as a result of Commissioner Rothman’s order.

The joint investigation by Commerce and the United States Postal Inspection Service uncovered that Helmer, through WAW, received over $1.2 million in coins, precious metals, and money from customers. The charges state that Helmer sold many of the coins and used the proceeds, as well as customers’ money to pay business expenses, for personal use, and to make small Ponzi-scheme type payments to customers to avoid suspicion that their money was gone.

Protect Yourself – Bullion Coin Red Flags

Don’t fall for phony pitches. Unscrupulous dealers may try to entice you with an artificially low price on an internet or TV advertisement in hopes of getting your contact information. Once they have you on the phone, they will use high-pressure tactics to get you to buy coins with a higher price that are not a good value, or might not exist at all.

Scammers might try to convince you to buy or sell bullion coins in exchange for a different metal or coins that would supposedly gain more value. Don’t be persuaded by what a telemarketer says – do your research.

Beware of the “rare coin” scam. Scammers will use a grain of truth to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Rare coins can often be a good investment in times of either inflation or recession, but these investments should not be trusted in the hands of a fraudulent dealer. These scammers will prey on fears of a big economic downturn to get their hands on your money.

Leveraged Investment Scams. This is where a dealer will make you feel like you are missing out on a great deal if you don’t “act fast.” Think carefully and do your homework when you are asked by a dealer to act fast to take advantage of rising prices. What sounds like a good opportunity is actually a complex and risky investment. You are not buying a coin but investing money. This investment is paid up-front and followed by regular payments that include interest. There is the potential to increase your initial investment, but you should consider the risk of losing more money than you started with.

If a telemarketer or coin dealer suggests sending a certain amount of money for purchasing bullion coins and holding that purchase in their vault and safe, ask if the business is bonded or insured. Verify this information and get it in writing.

Act now. Think carefully when dealers use high-pressure sales tactics. Don’t fall for pitches that urge you to “act now!” Put the same thought and consideration in purchasing bullion coins like any other investment.

Double your money. Avoid investments that seemingly have no downside or risk. Bullion coins are not immune to rising and falling prices.

The dealer will only accept checks or wire transfers. These transactions are more difficult to cancel or get your money back. Always be wary of giving your credit card information out, but credit card transactions may have more protection.

Commerce is here to help

The Commerce Department is here if you have questions, or believe you have been the victim of a scam or fraud. Report the fraud, so that others do not fall victim. If you think you have been a victim, contact the Department's Consumer Services Center at 651-539-1600 or (800) 657-3602.

Complaints can also be sent by email to consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

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