Precious metal retailer Goldline International is facing fraud charges. (More)
From Glenn Beck, to Rush Limbaugh, to two former GOP presidential candidates, Goldline International has been recommended by conservative talkers to their listeners as a great investment. Yet for years, charges have flown about customers being redirected from buying gold bullion to higher-priced coins, wasting much of their investment.
The Santa Monica, CA, City Attorney apparently agrees. After a lengthy investigation, nineteen criminal charges for fraud and theft have been filed against Goldline International as a “bait and switch scheme.”
The company has been charged in the court filing with misdemeanors that include theft by false pretenses, false advertising, and conspiracy, the City Attorney’s office said. In addition to the charges against the company, the complaint accuses former CEO Mark Albarian, executives Robert Fazio and Luis Beeli, and salespeople Charles Boratgis and Stephanie Howard of defrauding customers. Current CEO Scott Carter is accused of making false or misleading statements.
At the heart of the complaint is the suggestion that Goldline profits not so much by selling pure gold bullion, but by persuading customers who want to capitalize on the rising value of gold to purchase collectable coins. The coins are subject to a significant mark-up in price, and several Goldline customers told ABC News that they found it difficult or impossible to resell those coins without taking a loss.
Of course, Limbaugh, Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson, among others, will be able to claim they didn’t know this was happening. But part of the problem was an insidious practice where advertising is mentioned in full integration with the content of conservative talk show hosts’ messages.
Do you think talk show pundits or news people should be allowed to integrate advertising into their content?
Do you think that integration may constitute fraud in itself as it is not identified as advertising?
Should anyone go after “news personalities” who imply that they are having a serious discussion about an advertiser without letting viewers know they are being paid for this?
Are there reasonable limits to free speech in advertising?