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Four sentenced for scheme that promised to turn dirt into gold

Defendants Defrauded 140 Victims of More than Eight Million Dollars

SALT LAKE CITY – Marc Tager, Jonathon Shoucair, Matthew Mangrum, and Kenneth Gross have all been sentenced for their role in an eight million dollar telemarketing fraud scheme that promised investors, most of them elderly, that their business could extract gold from dirt.

Marc Andrew Tager, 55, of Sandy, Utah, was sentenced on April 14, 2021, to 43 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, money laundering, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Jonathon Edward Shoucair, 69 of North Hills, California, was sentenced on October 23, 2020, to 72 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and money laundering.

Matthew Earl Mangum, 51, of South Jordan, Utah, was sentenced on November 18, 2020, to 48 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

Kenneth Stephen Gross, 75, of Porter Ranch, California was sentenced on January 16, 2020, to 24 months of probation for failing to disclose to federal authorities that he had knowledge that securities fraud was occurring.

Tager, Shoucair, and Mangum posed as the leaders of the scheme and told victim-investors they had created a plan to make money by extracting gold from dirt using a revolutionary process developed by Mangum–who was held out to investors as an expert in metallurgy and the refining of precious metals. Investors were told that the defendants controlled this proprietary, breakthrough, nanotechnology that used environmentally friendly means to recover microscopic particles of gold from dirt. Gross was engaged in cold-calling potential investors and passing interested individuals on to Tager and Shoucair in order to obtain funds from these investors.

Investors were told that the group needed investors’ money to pay for the space, equipment, materials, and labor to develop Mangum’s process into a large scale, highly profitable business that would generate huge returns. Instead, the co-defendants operated an advanced fee scheme with Tager, Shoucair, and Mangum making fraudulent statements to investors to secure funding that was only partially used to support the business, which was never profitable.

In order to carry out the fraud, the three defendants formed Jersey Consulting, LLC (“Jersey”) and created a marketing website for their business. On the website, the defendants claimed that Jersey owned an 80 acre mining claim with a substantial amount of mineral rich ore; that their revolutionary mining technology could achieve 20 times the yield of traditional mining at a fraction of the cost; that their process was environmentally friendly; and that investors would achieve 100% percent returns on their money in 12 months. Investors were also told that their money would be secured by the physical assets owned by Jersey and that the investors would have priority over these assets should the business fail.

What investors did not know was that Tager and Shoucair first met while serving multi-year federal prison sentences together for previous fraud related convictions. Tager, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2005 and sentenced to approximately 2 years in prison, met Jon Shoucair, who was serving a 5-year prison sentence in the Sheridan Federal Correction Institution for running a $50 million telemarketing fraud.

Since 2014, the men raised over eight million from about 140 investors through the use of a national telemarketing strategy. The majority of the investors were over the age of 65. However, three million dollars of investors’ money was spent for the personal benefit of Tager, Mangum, and Shoucair, with another two million dollars of the funds going to pay telemarketers, including Gross, who helped raise the funds. It is estimated that only three million dollars of the investors’ funds were used to pay for potentially legitimate business expenses incurred by Jersey.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob J. Strain, Trina Higgins, and Allison Moon in the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. Investigators from the Utah Department of Commerce Division of Securities and Special Agents from the FBI and the IRS conducted the investigation.