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Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 12:07 am

Green in a fight over gold

In a legal battle with The Gold Center former owner, Todd Green says he’ll expand business to Florida

 

The Gold Center might be moving to Florida from Springfield, and that isn’t the least of it, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

In the lawsuit, James Hausman, a stockholder and former owner of the business that buys and sells precious metals, accuses his business partners, including  Gold Center majority owner Todd Green, of shenanigans that include trafficking counterfeit coins, transporting precious metal in unarmored vans with dealer plates, violating federal currency reporting requirements, doing business with accused and convicted felons, failing to account for a pricey diamond and illicit burning of computer circuit boards in furnaces designed to smelt precious metal.

Green denies everything.

“My reputation in town is worth way more than trying to do something wrong in the gold and silver business,” Green says.

At stake is the fate of a 30-year-old business that Green and Hausman have been fighting over since 2014, when Hausman sold Green, who’s best known as a car dealer, a controlling interest in The Gold Center. Agreements that transferred an 80-percent share of business and associated enterprises came with an option to purchase The Gold Center building, which Hausman still owns.

Green in 2015 attempted to exercise the purchase option, with the price to be set by appraisers, but the sale didn’t go through. Green’s appraiser determined the property was worth $815,000; Hausman’s appraiser set the value at $3.2 million. A third appraiser never was retained, as contemplated in the option agreement. Instead, the matter ended up in Sangamon County Circuit Court, with Green seeking a judicial order to force the sale. The lawsuit ultimately was dismissed by agreement of the parties.

Green, according to Hausman’s federal lawsuit, plans to move The Gold Center to Florida this summer, which, presumably, would leave Hausman holding deed to a near-windowless fortified building with no tenant. In the federal lawsuit filed Jan. 26, Hausman asks that The Gold Center be dissolved and a receiver appointed to oversee closure of the business.

The Gold Center drew Green’s interest after he acted as a middle man of sorts in transactions involving embattled entrepreneur Jeff Parsons, a man with bullion but no bank account. Parsons, who now lives in Texas, made deals in 2011 and 2012 to buy a boat and a Panther Creek home from Green, who acquired the assets, then transferred them to Parsons for cash and silver coins. Also in exchange for silver coins, Green in 2011 transferred a share of a corporate jet to Parsons, who regularly deposited coins and bullion at The Gold Center from buying events, typically set up at hotels, across the nation. At last report, Parsons, who declared bankruptcy in 2012, was under criminal investigation. He is also under the jurisdiction of a federal court that is attempting to force him to pay $12 million in owed wages to former employees.

Green and Hausman in 2014 agreed to transfer The Gold Center business, but not the building, to Green. Litigation ensued.

In his lawsuit, Hausman alleges that The Gold Center under Green converted Kruggerands into currency for a Peoria auto dealership that had accepted the gold in payment for a vehicle. The Gold Center did not complete required forms notifying the government of exchanges involving more than $10,000 in currency, according to Hausman’s lawsuit. Green says that he owned the dealership in question, the car in play was a Toyota Camry and all necessary reports were filed. “We did everything required by the federal government,” Green said.

Hausman also asserts that The Gold Center made “numerous purchases” of jewelry and gold from Ademota Adeniji, who is facing charges in connection with the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry from an unclaimed property vault under the jurisdiction of the Illinois state treasurer. Green says that Hausman’s accusation has no merit, and that transactions with Adeniji predated the sale of The Gold Center in 2014. “Jim (Hausman) had been doing it (buying from Adeniji) for years before we did it,” Green says. “We purchase thousands of dollars of stuff every day. How would we know if this guy’s stuff was stolen or not? We did everything required by Illinois law.”

Green acknowledges that The Gold Center shipped $900,000 worth of silver to an out-of-state company, which turned out to be owned, at least in part, by a man recently released from prison. The Gold Center went unpaid after the company declared bankruptcy. In his lawsuit, Hausman pegs The Gold Center’s loss at $135,000. Not so, according to Green, who says that Lloyd’s of London covered the loss and that the insurer had pre-approved the shipment. “We had a claim with Lloyd’s of London and were made whole,” Green says.

Hausman, who was kept on the payroll for a year after The Gold Center was sold, also says that he had decided that at least eight collectible silver coins held by the business were counterfeit, and that he reported his conclusion to the Secret Service as well as the coins’ owner. Hausman says that The Gold Center, which was acting as a broker, sold the coins without marking them as counterfeit and turned over less than half the purchase price for the lot of coins that included the alleged counterfeits to the seller.

Green says that there was no wrongdoing and that prospective buyers were given ample time to inspect the coins after being told that authenticity questions has been raised. He said that he didn’t know just how much The Gold Center turned over to the owner that had retained the business to sell the coins, but the amount was at least the minimum price that was agreed on when the owner retained The Gold Center to arrange a sale.

“I know we met what they needed,” Green says.

Green doesn’t dispute a contention by Hausman that The Gold Center has been transporting precious metal in unsecured vans with dealer plates. There is, he says, nothing illegal about the practice.

Hausman in his lawsuit says that a two-carat diamond went missing after The Gold Center under Green’s control arranged for a swap, plus cash, with a pricey gem. Hausman says that the diamond was kept by a Gold Center manager and has not been properly accounted for. Not so, says Green. “The gentleman traded a diamond for a higher-quality diamond,” Green says. “The Gold Center was made 100-percent whole.”

Hausman also contends that The Gold Center has been incinerating computer circuit boards even though the building lease prohibits the disposal of hazardous materials. On one occasion, Hausman says, the Springfield Fire Department was summoned after a fire that spewed “heavy black toxic smoke and, potentially cadmium, a hazardous chemical used in circuit boards, into the Gold Center property.”

Springfield Fire Department reports show that a passerby called the fire department in 2015 after spotting black smoke coming from the building. After being told that a furnace had overheated and discovering no fire, the first firefighters on scene canceled the call, fire department records show, and left the scene after 10 minutes.

“It was a minimal deal that lasted all of about five minutes,” Green said. The Gold Center routinely melts circuit boards to recover silver, he said, and the one that prompted the 911 call contained unexpected plastic that resulted in black smoke. “We melt circuit boards all the time,” Green said.

Hausman says that Green is preparing to move The Gold Center to Florida. Green acknowledges that he plans to start buying and selling precious metals in Florida within the next year. “We are opening up a second location in Naples, Florida,” Green says. “But we plan to stay in Springfield, for sure.” But not at the building owned by Hausman.

“We’ll be shifting locations,” Green said.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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