Investigators are scrutinizing Twin Cities coin and precious metal dealers in response to widespread complaints of consumer fraud.
Last week, the state attorney general's office obtained a court order to shut down a St. Paul precious metals dealer. The office has referred a number of other cases to federal and state investigators and regulators. And the U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota already is considering criminal charges against some coin dealers in the coming months.
Indictments can't come soon enough for the Minnesota attorney general's office, which began making criminal referrals as early as June 2010, spokesman Ben Wogsland said on Tuesday.
"The most effective deterrent to financial crime is criminal prosecutions and jail time," Wogsland said.
A Star Tribune investigation last year reported that some Twin Cities coin dealers have drawn complaints for years about unscrupulous practices. Certain firms have hired ex-cons, addicts and drunks who target wealthy, mostly elderly clients. Many investors claim that the firms shortchanged them or sent them nothing at all in return for their cash and coins.
Complaints continue to roll in about this largely unregulated industry, Wogsland said.
"We do intend to recommend legislation in the area of these coin dealers" next year to rein in abuses, he said.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sought a temporary restraining order Tuesday to stop a 47-year-old St. Paul woman from selling precious metals after receiving complaints that she has been cheating clients around the country for months.