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Former Tennessee lawmaker sentenced to 21 years in coin-selling scheme

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. PHOTO: MGN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — 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 and three relatives were found guilty in May of mail and wire fraud.

Customers had given $87 million to First American Monetary Consultants 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 (930-square-meter) house. By 2009, the company had more than $26 million dollars in unfilled orders.

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