An Eagle Rock man was sentenced to 36 months in prison for what prosecutors call an $8 million scheme to defraud investors by selling “ancient slag,” a mining byproduct he claimed could lead to a modern-day gold rush for buyers.
Michael Godfree, 80, a United Kingdom citizen, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who also ordered the would-be Yosemite Sam to pay $8,336,965 in restitution. The sentencing comes after Godfree pleaded guilty in December 2021 to one count of mail fraud.
Federal prosecutors say Godfree was co-founder of The Minerals Acquisition Company (TMAC), a Pasadena-based outfit that offered to sell slag to victims who were told the company would be able to extract precious metals, including gold, which was generated from copper mining. TMAC sold ton-quantities of the slag with promises of refining the material and recovering precious metals. TMAC provided victims with bogus attorney-certified “Certificates of Title” that purported to transfer ownership of the slag to victims.
Only there was no way to extract precious metals from the piles of dirt sold to investors, who sent the Godfree’s company $8,336,965 checks and wired cash. And Godfree’s company didn’t even own the dirty they were selling.
“Godfree was nothing more than a glorified conman,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum, adding that he “was selling nothing more than worthless dirt (that he generally didn’t own) along with a non-existent ‘process’ to extract value from the dirt…. Unsurprisingly, not a single victim-purchaser has ever seen any return on their purchase. Instead, the money was spent on lavish goods and personal expenses.”
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