Former Tennessee lawmaker Larry Bates sentenced to 21 years in Ponzi scheme

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A former Tennessee lawmaker who led a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme promoted on Christian media and centered on buying and selling gold and silver coins has been sentenced to more than 21 years behind bars.

A Memphis federal judge on Tuesday also ordered 73-year-old former Democratic state Rep. Larry Bates to pay more than $21 million in restitution to more than 400 people he defrauded.

Bates, his sons, Chuck and Robert Bates, and his wife Kinsey, were found guilty of mail and wire fraud during a five-week trial in Memphis.

Customers had given $87 million to First American Monetary Consultants, which had offices in Memphis and Boulder, Colorado, for the purpose of buying precious metals. But prosecutors said the defendants kept the money for their personal use, including commodities trading and a 10,000-square-foot house. By 2009, the company had more than $26 million in unfilled orders.

Bates, who served in the House in the 1970s, promoted the company though Christian television and radio programs, prosecutors said. Bates held conferences predicting an economic collapse and emphasizing the need to invest in precious metals. Evidence at trial showed he diverted more than $4 million to the creation of International Radio Network, a Christian radio system.