All About Silver - ... the buck stops here ...
Alert on Provident Metals, NTR Metals, Elemetal.

Provident Precious Metals

[Summary: 3 Elemetal (Provident Metals' parent company) employees accused of laundering $3.5B of illegal gold]
[Elemetal Status: Elemetal Refining expects to pay customers in 6 months, gold/silver refining shut down]
[Provident Status: No known issues at Provident at this time; status is 'Do business with them, but be careful']
[Other related pages: Elemetal Vault, the Elemetal, NTR, Provident Companies]

[Oldest posts start from the bottom]

... and the Lawsuits Start

April 24, 2017 8:50PM EST
A few hours ago, a glass company that uses silver in coating glass products filed a lawsuit against Elemetal Refining, over about $650K of metal they claim that Elemetal refuses to return to them.

In the arrangement they had with Elemetal Refining, the glass company would use pure silver as part of the process to coat glass, and then send Elemetal the impure silver that resulted for refining. Elemetal would refine it, the glass company would sell part of the silver to cover Elemetal's fees, and Elemetal would return pure silver.

The glass company states that the silver was always their property, and the only time the title would transfer to Elemetal is when the glass company sold Elemetal some of the silver to cover the fees (in fact, exhibits include a trade confirmation showing the metal to cover fees being sold to Elemetal -- something that likely could not be done if the glass company was not the owner of the metal). The glass company alleges that Elemetal has refused to return the metal.

This is different than the refining that I believe Elemetal Refining normally does, where someone sells them scrap silver/gold for cash. In that case, the title transfers to Elemetal (the question being when; Elemetal stated that they believe it is on delivery to Elemetal). However, in this case, in theory, the glass company should be receiving exactly what it sent (minus impurities, and some extra silver to pay for refining). That does suggest that the title would not transfer. On the other hand, it was based on an oral contract (the standard Elemetal Refining contract seems to apply to Elemetal paying for the metal to be refined, not returning pure metal). And the exhibits show that Elemetal refers to the glass company's metal being "credited to pool account to be returned" (suggesting it would be Elemetal's metal).

This does bring up some interesting questions. If this is all true, is the metal actually owned by the glass company? And if so, why is it not being returned? Was there a lien on this metal? Was the metal given to (or sold, with the proceeds going to) one of Elemetal Refining's banks?

2 of 3 NTR Metals Miami Employees Ordered Detained

April 20, 2017 2:45PM EST
Two of the three NTR Metals Miami employees that were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering were ordered to be detained without bond, due to their flight risk.

NTR Predicted Elemetal Refining Demise

April 18, 2017 3:50PM EST
Starting in late 2014, a group in Colombia claiming to be "working for peace" started E-mailing NTR employees in Colombia (including one of those that was arrested last month), and then published a defamatory website in late 2015 about NTR Metals and their operations in Colombia -- accusing them, among other things, of participating in money laundering and financing terrorism. NTR Metals, of course, denies these allegations. They even initiated a lawsuit in Colombia to try to track down an punish the people responsible for the defamation.

A legal representative for NTR Metals wrote, in Spanish, in February 2016: "It is also not surprising that [the defamers] would try to generate a hostile environment toward the oversight authorities so that they would start investigations against my clients and, with that, finish off its business."

So if NTR's prediction was correct, the shutdown of the Elemetal Refining gold and silver refining business was a result of defamation, not improper business practice.

Some More Details

April 18, 2017 2:35PM EST
Here are some other details I have discovered recently:

  • At least one of the 3 NTR Metals Miami employees that were arrested spent most of his time working out of an office in Peru, not in Miami.
  • That employee was transferred from Peru to Miami in October, 2016 (about 10 months after I first heard that NTR Metals was accused of smuggling gold from Peru). He was then re-assigned to Colombia in January, 2017.
  • The 3 NTR employees had known each other for at least 10 years, and had previously worked together at a different company. They started working at NTR in 2008, 2011, and 2013.
  • The salary of one of the 3 NTR Metals Miami employees that was arrested started at $60K-$65K plus commission
  • One of the 3 NTR Metals Miami employees reportedly drives a car worth less than $10,000.
  • Court documents refer (during a sworn examination) to $300M of gold that was stolen from NTR, that NTR had purchased in Peru. This may have been several years ago. It is unclear if this was a very serious mistake in court by a federal agent, or whether there really was a $300M gold heist that never made the news.
  • NTR/Elemetal was issued subpoena(s) last year that they provided documents in response to
  • According to a court transcript, Elemetal has a skybox at the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium. If true, with the 20-year contract these require, the value of that contract would be around $10M-$20M.
  • Over a period of 6 years, a Colombian company called Goldex is reported to have exported $1.4B of illegal gold, 97% of which reportedly went to NTR Metals competitors RMC and Metalor

Elemetal Vault Metal Safe

April 14, 2017 5:00PM EST
I previously had concerns regarding the Elemetal Vault metal, thinking it was at the Brinks vault at Elemetal Refining.

I have just been told by Elemetal Vault that the metal purchased by Elemetal Vault customers is located in a Brinks vault in a different state. They also clarified that their client's metal is not (and can not be) subject to any lien.

This relieves most of my concern regarding Provident Metals and Elemetal Vault, LLC.


April 13, 2017 11:30AM EST
On Monday, Provident's President and CEO Joe Merrick wrote a blog post addressing NTR's issues.

I posted a comment the next day, asking if he could confirm that there were no liens on their stored metals program (Elemetal Vault). Someone there gave a vague response, but did not address my question. I then posted a second comment in response explaining the importance and asking for further clarification (and sent an E-mail to their media address). The stored metal is in a vault that has metal that 2 banks have liens on, so this is more than a trivial question.

For nearly 48 hours, my second post would show up in my browser as "Pending Moderation", so presumably the public could not see it. But within the past 3 hours, my second post does not even show up in my browser. So they have gone from not answering my question (non-action) to deleting it (an intentional action).

I really want to give Provident the benefit of the doubt here, but they are making it harder and harder to do so. As with my last post here, until Provident responds, I cannot recommend that people do business with Provident Metals. That may change, of course, but that is my stance for the time being.

[April 14, 2017 5:00PM EST Update: The Elemetal Vault metal is in a Brinks facility in a separate state, and not subject to any liens]

Provident Quiet on Stored Metal

April 12, 2017 5:45PM EST
I mentioned that on Monday Provident blogged about the NTR issue. I commented, requesting clarification on metal stored by Provident's customers (which sits in the very vault that is at the center of the NTR Metals controversy). They gave a vague "Oh, that's not us" response. I asked for clarification, and checked with Elemetal Vault, and after more than 24 hours have not received a response from either.

So let's take a closer look at this. Provident is a subsidiary of Elemetal ("An Elemetal Company"), and offers customers storage at Elemetal Vault, another subsidiary of Elemetal. Elemetal Vault's metal is stored at Elemetal Refining, in Jackson, Ohio. Two banks have liens on metal at that location, Elemetal Refining is shutting down their gold and silver refining business (after allegedly refining more than $3.5B of smuggled gold). The situation is bad enough that Provident blogs about it to do damage control. Two companies that had reputations similar to Provident went belly-up after lying about stored metal. So when I ask about the possibility that metal that Elemetal says is owned by customers might be subject to the lien, Provident does what? They don't respond. Nor does Elemetal Vault. No answer.

In my opinion, this is pretty damning. If Elemetal Vault metal is not actually owned by customers, this would appear to be a massive fraud -- and would be extremely damaging to Provident Metals. If I ran Provident, I would immediately respond, either with an answer, or giving a high priority to getting a detailed response.

Despite no signs of financial trouble at Provident Metals itself, until Provident responds, I cannot recommend that people do business with Provident Metals.

[April 14, 2017 5:00PM EST Update: The Elemetal Vault metal is in a Brinks facility in a separate state, and not subject to any liens]

Elemetal Refining Update

April 12, 2017 4:15PM EST
According to an article at the Times Journal (a Jackson, Ohio newspaper; subscription required), Alan Stockmeister (the Chairman of the Board for Elemetal Refining, LLC) met with local media.

According to the article:

  • Elemetal Refining, LLC is still "open for business"
  • Only the high-grade gold and silver refining has been suspended. They will continue refining copper and other base metals, and the minting and collection process.
  • Stockmeister stated "We are solvent as a company and I am confident in our ability to pay everybody"
  • It will take about 4 months "to eliminate the current refining streams they had in place because it takes that amount of time to complete the entire process."
  • They are repurposing the facility and have made personnel cuts, but do not have plans to shut down the plant
  • The bank [presumably Scotia Bank] has not shut down Elemetal Refining.
  • NTR Metals of Miami is under investigation. Previously, it was unknown if the company itself was under investigation.
Elemetal Refining was planning on sending a second E-mail to customers yesterday. If anyone has a copy, I would really appreciate it if you could send it to me (you can use the anonymous tips page).

Another OPM Lien: Metal Leased from Mitsubishi

April 11, 2017 8:35PM EST
I've finally managed to access Ohio's liens, and uncovered a lien that Mitsubishi International Corporation has against metal it leases to Elemetal Refining (f/k/a OPM). The original lease agreement was dated March 28, 2016, so this is quite new.

Why OPM was leasing metal is beyond my expertise. But like the Provident Metals lien, this lien applies to metal likely held in Elemetal Refining's vault, the same place where Elemetal Vault's metal is held. This adds fuel to the fire regarding whether a bank or other company may believe they have a lien against Elemetal Vault metal. From what I can tell, assuming Elemetal is honest, this should not be possible. However, if a lien does exist -- which Provident has not yet shown it is concerned about -- it would be a very serious problem for Provident's customers who use Elemetal Vault.

[April 14, 2017 5:00PM EST Update: The Elemetal Vault metal is in a Brinks facility in a separate state, and not subject to any liens]

Elemetal Vault: Is Their (Your) Metal Gone?

April 11, 2017 7:10PM EST
Provident Metals, like many dealers, offers a storage option: Elemetal Vault.

With Elemetal Vault, the metal is allocated but not segregated. The "not segregated" means that all the metal is lumped together (there is no box with your name on it). The "allocated" means that you are the "legal owner" and it is your "legal property" and you "[have] title to" metal. In this case, the metal is large bars: you might own 1 ounce of a 100oz gold bar. Maybe one person owns the other 99 ounces, maybe 99 others each have 1 ounce. But if Elemetal Vault is telling the truth, you have title to 1% of that bar.

The concern here is that the Bank of Nova Scotia has a lien on metal (a right to keep the metal until a debt is paid) that it consigned to Provident Metals and "certain of its affiliates" (Elemetal Vault is an affiliate of Provident Metals). Despite Provident Precious Metals, LLC being listed as the debtor on the lien, the address is not that of Provident Metals: it is that of Elemetal Refining and OPM, where Elemetal Vault is located. And we have heard that the Bank of Nova Scotia has come after bars at that location. If all the paperwork is done properly, all should be fine. But the obvious question is whether the Bank of Nova Scotia may think they are entitled to the Elemetal Vault bars (if the bank is combing through the vault, they certainly are asking this question!). If that is the case, it could boil down to whether Elemetal Vault properly transferred ownership to customers (if so, customers are in somewhat good shape; if not, they might get nothing).

Remember, Bullion Direct and NWT Mint lied to customers regarding their stored metals. So far, no Bullion Direct customers and only a handful of NWT Mint customers have seen any of their stored metal. Both Bullion Direct and NWT Mint were in business longer than NTM/Elemetal/Provident. I am not suggesting that Elemetal or Provident would lie, but a prudent investor must assume the possibility of a lien exists.

So I asked Provident if there might be a lien on these bars, and they responded without providing an answer, passing the buck to Elemetal Vault ("we are a load out option for Elemetal Vault and canít speak on their behalf"). This is very disconcerting. If Elemetal Vault's metal is subject to a lien (and there is evidence that suggests this could be the case), Elemetal Vault would be a complete lie, and it would to me seem like Provident would be selling a fraudulent product. And Provident doesn't want to know the answer? It is clear that Elemetal has been seriously harmed by the gold smuggling allegations (which 3 Elemetal employees are facing jail time for), and hurt badly enough that Provident is publicly addressing the issue. So why do they not find the answer? Is this a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy (like the gold smuggling appears to have been), or just a lower-level employee responding to this serious issue? Does Provident care if their customers might not actually have their stored gold?

I will, of course, update when I hear back from Provident.

[April 14, 2017 5:00PM EST Update: The Elemetal Vault metal is in a Brinks facility in a separate state, and not subject to any liens]

OPM To Shut Down [High Grade Refining]

April 9, 2017 8:20PM EST
There were rumors that OPM (Ohio Precious Metals, an Elemetal company) had shut down operations, and this appears to have been confirmed from a letter sent to Elemetal Refining customers.

The letter specifies that they expect to pay Elemetal Refining, LLC customers within 6 months. It refers to O.R.C. 1302.42 stating that title of metal sold to Elemetal Refining, LLC vests when the metal is delivered, and states that their bank (presumably the Bank of Nova Scotia) has a first lien on the metal. They also point out that bankruptcy was considered, but it would immediately halt payments and could delay the process for years (and cost millions of dollars, which they do not mention, but we know from Tulving, Bullion Direct, and NWTM's bankruptcies).

Please note that it is unclear exactly how far this issue reaches. Elemetal Refining, LLC is its own company, so it could be limited just to Elemetal Refining, LLC (the old OPM). Presumably, the metal in the Elemetal Vault (which appears to be located in the Elemetal Refining, LLC facilities) is not covered by the bank's lien (if so, there would be disastrous consequences). Fortunately, Provident Metals appears to be getting orders out in a timely fashion.

April 12, 2017 4:20PM EST Update: Elemetal Refining, LLC is not planning to shut down completely, just to shut down the high grade gold and silver refining. See the 'Elemetal Update' of 12 Apr 2017 above for further details.

Anonymous Tips Wanted

April 9, 2017
I am looking for anonymous tips regarding Provident Precious Metals, NTR, and Elemetal.

Whether you work for them, work for a company that does business with them, are part of an investigative agency, or just heard something, I'm happy to hear from you. Getting tips helps me get a sense of the severity of issues at a company, and can sometimes provide me with information customers want to hear. The form also allows for attachments.

You can submit tips at this page. You are also welcome to E-mail me (I am very careful to protect my sources). Typical tips I have received for other companies range anywhere from experiences with the company to other places I should be looking to various files (financials, E-mails, etc.). I'm not Wikileaks; I will not normally post any documents that were not intended to be public (but appreciate receiving copies).

NTR/Elemetal's Issues

April 9, 2017
Elemetal (a/k/a NTR Metals) has serious issues, that surfaced in March, 2017.

It all started on March 9, when Bloomberg wrote an article How to Become an International Drug Smuggler. It outlined a 23-year-old from Chile who smuggled $80M of illegal Peruvian gold, and how the Miami branch of NTR Metals (Elemetal) bought $3B of mostly illegal gold in the past 4 years. The gold smuggler said damning things about NTR: he said that he told two NTR employees that the gold was contraband, and that they helped him falsify customs paperwork. The two salesmen emphatically denied the allegations, so maybe it was a smuggler lying to make himself look bigger than he really is.

But the day after that article was published, the U.S. Attorney started an indictment against 3 NTR/Elemetal employees, including the two salesmen mentioned above, with the criminal complaint accusing them of money laundering (including such texts as "We need more Peruvian gold from Bolivia and Ecuador. Can u make it happen?", less than 2 months after receiving an article detailing illegal gold mining in Peru and gold smuggling through Bolivia).

Then, on March 31, for reasons unknown, the LBMA dropped both OPM (Ohio Precious Metals, an Elemetal company) and Elemetal from their "Good Delivery" list. Later that day, COMEX said they would no longer register (warrant) Elemetal bars. In the past 10 years, COMEX has only suspended warranting of 1 other company (ME Alcoa Aluminum), also for reasons unknown. COMEX gave a cryptic reason for the LBMA removal: it followed an "active review under their Incident Management Process." This is very, very serious.

One website reported an "unsubstantiated report" that Scotia Bank recalled its line of credit to Elemetal, that Elemetal is shutting down OPM operations, and returning all product to Scotia Bank. We cannot assume unsubstantiated reports to be true. However, what is known is that Scotia Bank had a lien on metal consigned to OPM (the lien is in Provident's name, but refers to Provident's affiliates and the mailing address is OPM's). That, combined with the LBMA/COMEX news, makes this extremely plausible.

Next, there is a lawsuit (dating a few years back) by a coin retailer, accusing NTR of encouraging the company to speculate in the futures markets, simply to profit from trading. One of the two owners had as much as $6M of futures contracts in play.

I have also heard from an NTR customer (a coin dealer) that late last year there were multi-week delays in getting orders, and excuses -- similar to what I would hear regarding Tulving, Bullion Direct, and NWTM.

However, despite these issues with Elemetal, I want to reiterate that I do not see the warning signs with Provident Precious Metals that I did with Tulving, Bullion Direct, and NWTM. I always recommend not storing metal with the dealer you buy metal from, so I wouldn't personally store metal with Elemetal Vault (see my write-up here). However, I would personally be much more thorough before placing orders with Provident (e.g. checking the latest news each time), and being careful how I pay (a credit card is safest, a bank wire allows quickest shipment).

Page Started

April 9, 2017
I have started this page about Provident Metals (Provident Precious Metals) due to a number of serious concerns regarding their parent company, Elemetal (Provident Metals is also known as Elemetal Online).

Elemetal is a conglomerate of bullion companies, including NTR Metals, OPM, and Provident, now all using the Elemetal name.

First, let me say that Provident does not have the red flags that Tulving, Bullion Direct, and NWT did (serious delays in shipping orders). That suggests that Provident is in acceptable financial shape, and if they are getting all orders shipped out quickly, it strongly limits the number of customers who would lose money in the event of a bankruptcy (for customers purchasing metal for delivery; Elemetal Vault is a separate story).

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