The owner of a Vancouver coin shop allegedly defrauded customers out of $1.3 million, according to a federal indictment announced Wednesday.
Blue Moon Coins owner Aaron Michael Scott, 40, of Portland was indicted by a grand jury on 11 counts of wire fraud and five counts of mail fraud, according to a statement released by U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.
In a statement announcing the indictment, Hayes said 139 customers were defrauded out of $1.3 million, with individual losses ranging from just over $2,000 to more than $154,000.
The Vancouver Police Department began investigating Blue Moon Coins in 2014 after customers claimed they’d paid for gold and silver coins from the business’s website but received nothing in return. The shop abruptly closed after the investigation began, though a related business, Affordable Precious Metals, continued to operate at the site for a time. It is no longer at that location.
The indictment alleges that between October 2013 and April 2014, Scott repeatedly accepted customer money for the purchase of precious metals and coins and then used the money for his personal and company expenses.
Scott had told customers that the money would be used to immediately purchase the coins and metals, but instead it was used for expenses or to fulfill earlier customer orders in the form of a Ponzi scheme, according to the indictment.
“When customers complained about the delay in receiving their items, Scott used a plethora of excuses such as: weather delays; a supplier had gone bankrupt; a corporate buyout; ice and snow; delayed armored truck delivery; and a bad flu season,” Hayes said in the announcement.
Scott is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today. Wire fraud and mail fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission, according to Hayes. She said the commission has filed a civil enforcement action against Scott and Blue Moon Coins seeking restitution for the victims and a permanent registration and trading ban.