Robert Higgins’ Companies, Argent Asset Group and First State Depository Company, Directed to Pay Massive $146 Million Settlement

**Silver Dealer Ordered to Pay Millions to Victims of Fraudulent Scheme**

Hundreds of depositors who trusted a silver dealer with their money have been left empty-handed after an investigation by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The investigation revealed that precious metals dealer Robert Higgins conducted a fraudulent silver leasing scheme through two companies, Argent Asset Group LLC and First State Depository Company, LLC. The victims of this alleged complex fraudulent scheme will be receiving $112.7 million in restitution, and Higgins and his companies will also be paying a civil monetary penalty of $33 million.

**The Maxiumus Program: A False Promise**

Higgins marketed his scheme, known as the “Maximus Program,” to customers who owned silver coins. He promised to pay them a lease fee in exchange for allowing Argent to use their coins. The lease fee offered was based on a scale, depending on how many coins the client was willing to offer. Customers were led to believe that their coins were stored in a vault owned by First State Depository Company in Delaware, and they were assured that their investments were fully insured and guaranteed.

**The Appeal of Silver Coins**

Investors are often drawn to silver coins like the silver American Eagle dollars because they offer a tangible asset with intrinsic value. Unlike government bonds or stocks, which may fluctuate in value, silver coins hold their value as a precious metal. The coins are also minted by the U.S. Mint, ensuring their authenticity and limited availability, which adds to their appeal for collectors and investors.

**Empty Vaults and Missing Assets**

Unfortunately, an investigation by Baker Tilly, commissioned by the CFTC, revealed that the coins supposedly stored in the vaults of First State Depository Company did not exist. Accountants found empty boxes or boxes containing IOUs instead of the customers’ coins. In some cases, there were no records at all for certain customers. The inventory check showed that nearly $113 million in client and customer assets were missing, and the actual quantity of coins found was significantly lower than expected.

**Misappropriation and Misleading Reports**

The CFTC alleges that Higgins and his companies misappropriated the coins, either using or selling them for their own benefit. Customers were sent monthly reports that falsely indicated their assets were safely stored at First State Depository Company. Some customers who paid for additional coins never received them, and the money paid was pocketed by the defendants.

**CFTC’s Efforts and Customer Compensation**

Ian McGinley, the director of enforcement at the CFTC, expressed commitment to rooting out fraud in the precious metals market. While the CFTC has ordered restitution for the victims, there is no guarantee that they will recover their funds, as the defendants may lack sufficient assets. Customers can find updates on the case through the First State Depository Company website, which is now under the administration of the appointed administrators.

In conclusion, hundreds of depositors who trusted a precious metals dealer with their money have been left disappointed and empty-handed. The alleged fraudulent scheme perpetrated by Robert Higgins led to the disappearance of millions of dollars’ worth of silver coins. While the victims have been awarded damages, there is no assurance that they will recover their funds. The case serves as a reminder of the need for vigilance and due diligence when investing in precious metals.

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