‘Dirt into gold’ scam lands two Utah men in federal prison

Apr 23, 2021, 6:28 PM
dirt gold...
(Stock Photo)
(Stock Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – Two Utah men who reportedly claimed they could turn dirt into gold are now in federal prison.  Prosecutors say they were part of a group that scammed over 100 victims out of roughly $8 million over the span of three years.

On the surface, the claim that dirt can be turned into gold seems completely unbelievable.  However, Brian Maxwell with the Utah Department of Commerce says Marc Tager and Matthew Mangum showed next-level forms of deceit, and they spent a massive amount of money to make their business look real.  One victim, a dentist, gave the men hundreds of thousands of dollars after inspecting their South Jordan refinery for himself, believing it was real.

Maxwell says, “They had spent nearly $3 million of that $8 million, supposedly, on building the infrastructure around this business idea.”

Prosecutors say Tager and Mangum joined California resident Jonathon Edward Shoucair in forming Jersey Consulting, LLC.  That company reportedly claimed they developed “revolutionary” nanotechnology that could extract 20 times the amount of gold than regular mining.  It was also labeled as an environmentally friendly way to get the metal.

Did they actually process any gold?  Maxwell says they’re not certain.  Tager and Mangum reportedly claimed they did, but it was a very small amount, and investigators never actually saw it.

“They never extracted more than $20,000 to $30,000 worth of gold from the process that they had pioneered,” Maxwell says.  To put that into perspective, $30,000 worth of gold is just over a pound.

Maxwell says Tager and Mangum also partnered with Kenneth Gross of Porter Ranch, California, who reportedly ran a cold-calling operation to find possible investors from all over the country.  Most of the victims were older than 65, and the scammers allegedly promised to double the investors’ money within a year. 

“The scammers involved, here, believed they were underselling that.  They thought they could make even more than that,” Maxwell says.

Did the men know it was a scam all along, or did they actually believe they could extract gold from dirt?  Maxwell says it’s hard for them to know that.  However, he says the suspects failed to give investors very important information.

“They hid the names of the people involved who had criminal histories,” Maxwell says.  “From the very get-go, this scheme had deceit in it.”

Tager was sentenced to 43 month for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, money laundering and possession of a firearm by a restricted person.  Mangum received 48 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.  Prosecutors say Tager and Shoucair met each other in federal prison while serving sentences for fraud-related crimes.

Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Deseret News


Other Reading:

Got a package you didn’t order? It could be part of a scam

Florida man arrested for reportedly scamming an elderly Utahn out of thousands

Today’s Top Stories


Emmett Louis Till, 14, with his mother, Mamie Bradley, at home in Chicago. Photo: CNN / TNS/ABACA v...
Nicole Chavez, CNN

Emmett Till’s investigation closed, no justice for his family

Emmett Till's family waited more than 65 years for someone to be held accountable for his murder. This week, their final hope was lost.
12 hours ago
youtuber insurance fraud...
Paul Nelson

Popular southern Utah YouTuber charged with insurance fraud

Matt Wetzel, the YouTuber charged with insurance fraud, has over 800 thousand subscribers to his channel "Matt's Off-Road Recovery."
7 days ago
(Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, left, sits next to Police Chief Mike Brown during a press co...
Paul Nelson

Overall crime goes down slightly in Salt Lake last month, but city officials see a bump in violent crimes

Citywide overall crime has dropped 18 percent over the last 28 days, according to the data used by Salt Lake City Police Department. 
21 days ago
salt lake city civil rights...
Curt Gresseth

SLC police and city boost push to hire new cops

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the police department is on pace to meet its goal of filling all of its open positions by the end of January.
26 days ago
Larry Gardner...
Kelsey Earl

Utah man to serve 84 months in federal prison for distributing heroin, meth

Larry Gardner, age 35, has already served 19 months after admitting he provided the fatal doses of narcotics to his girlfriend.
1 month ago
davis county prosecutor announces new conviction integrity unit...
Becky Bruce

Davis prosecutor hopes new conviction integrity unit provides justice

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said the Conviction Integrity Unit features people committed to fairness and justice -- and they're working for free.  
1 month ago
‘Dirt into gold’ scam lands two Utah men in federal prison