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Septuagenarian charged with fraud and money laundering relating to ancient slag.

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Editorial Staff

Londoners, pay attention: slag isn't what you think it is. For those from mining communities, slag is what's left over after coal, etc. has been washed. It's poured into conical mountains and left lying around, in theory to dry but occasionally the slurry undermines it and it slides down whatever gradient it is sitting on, sometimes with terrible results, as in the Welsh mining village of Aberfan in 1966. What might be in those "ancient slag" heaps in addition to wet dust? A 77 year old Californian claimed to know and to have a method of extracting the good stuff.

There's a confidence trick that surfaces every so often called the " black money scam ". It involves the fraudster telling the victim that there is hidden value in some paper if the victim uses the fraudster's special chemical to clean it.

77 year old Michael Godfree has been charged with something similar but on a much more grand scale. With an as yet un-named person, he formed a company called The Minerals Acquisition Company that traded in the slag not from coal mines but from copper mines and details of a secret process by which "precious metals" could be extracted from the slag. The company sold the slag by the ton, literally. To establish rights to the slag, the company issued victims with purported title to the slag. Endorsed with the mark of a fake lawyer, the document was a combination bill of sale and deed of ownership.

That company was dissolved in 2015 and the business was largely transferred to Precious Metals of North America, Inc., also owned by Godfree.

The primary problem, it is alleged, was that the companies did not own the slag they sold. Also, the transfers were not in fact "endorsed" by any lawyer. Moreover, the presence of economically viable metals in the slag was not established and, worse, even if it was the recovery scheme would not have been commercially viable.

But the scam, it is alleged, was very commercially viable: Godfree and his conspirators netted some USD7 million which they used to pay sales commissions to middle-men and Godfree's lavish lifestyle. The seven federal charges are for fraud and money laundering.

If he were to be convicted of the seven counts in the indictment, Godfree would face a statutory maximum sentence of 112 years in federal prison. For non-mathematicians, and assuming that sentencing takes place after his next birthday, that means, assuming no extension to his sentence, if he serves the full term, Godfree will be free, God willing, when he is 200 years old.

caveat: the matters referred to in this article are charges not convictions, allegations not findings of fact.



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