Carl Lawrence Estep of Belgrade, Montana pled guilty in federal court last
Friday to charges of wire fraud and mail fraud, according to Oct. 23 Associated
Press article. The fraud charges were in connection to a multi-state,
gold and platinum investment scheme that authorities say defrauded investors
out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Arrested in March, Estep originally
entered a plea of "not guilty" at his May 20, 2010 arraignment.
According to a March 29 FBI Press Release, the indictment claimed Estep
held himself out as a former employee of Howard Hughes Corporation and
solicited individuals to invest in his company, Montana Metals MT. He
reportedly told investors that the Howard Hughes Corporation paid him
in "barrels of gold concentrate worth millions of dollars,"
and that their investment funds would be used to pay company operating
expenses, to build refineries that "would produce large profits",
and to make high-yield overseas investments. Authorities claim these representations
As reported by the AP, prosecutors said Estep told investors that the
200 barrels of rock and sand stored in his Belgrade barn contained large
amounts of gold and platinum, which could be used as collateral in overseas
investments. He allegedly "proved" the containers' contents
with forged documentation.
Estep's sentencing date is Jan. 27. He faces a $250,000 fine, up to
20 years in prison, and three years of supervised release, according to
a KBZK Media Center article.