Robert Jeffrey “Jeff” Johnson, 55, of West Palm Beach, Florida, United States, Ross Baldwin, 60, of Miami, Florida and Kathleen Hook, 59, of West Palm Beach have been arrested. They were charged with wire fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud.
Baldwin was also charged with making false statements to federal officials in connection with lying to Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) officials during a sworn deposition. Moreover, he and Johnson were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and wire fraud for defrauding insurance companies by making misrepresentations to these insurance companies in connection with obtaining insurance for the purported silver.
From in or about 2014 through in or about January 2021, Johnson, Baldwin and Hook allegedly defrauded at least approximately 60 investors of at least approximately $8 million in connection with the Silver Lease Program, a precious metals leasing program. The three suspects are accused of lying to the investors in order to get them to invest millions of dollars in the program.
The investors had to ways to participate in the Silver Lease Program. They were asked to either pay funds to purchase silver that the investor then leased back to the operators of the program in return for a fixed monthly dividend payment or provide silver the investor already owned in order to lease that silver to the operators of the program in return for a fixed monthly dividend payment.
The investors were told that they owned a particular quantity of silver that was being stored for them by Precious Commodities Inc. (PCI) at a locked storage facility in Florida. Functionally controlled by Johnson, PCI did not even have any storage units at its facility in Florida.
To induce investors to invest in the program, Baldwin told the investors many other lies through his company National Coin Broker. Unbeknownst to the investors, much of the millions of dollars they provided were used to pay for the personal expenses of Johnson, his wife and Hook and to fund other business ventures not related to the program.
When Baldwin participated in a sworn deposition with the CFTC in Manhattan, New York, USA in October 2018, he lied about the role he played in obtaining insurance for PCI. He also lied about visiting a storage vault at the Silver Lease Program’s storage facility in Florida.
On July 1, 2021, Johnson and Hook were arrested in Palm Beach, Florida, United States and were presented in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. On the same day, Baldwin was arrested in Albany, New York and was presented in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.