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

Apr 23, 2021, 6:28 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am
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

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Crime, Police + Courts

Five former Memphis police officers who were fired for their actions during the arrest of Tyre Nich...
Eric Levenson, Melissa Alonso and Chris Boyette, CNN

Five former Memphis police officers indicted on charges of murder

The former officers were each charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault among other charges.
20 hours ago
White carnations representing each of the 1,746 unborn babies that were aborted in Utah in 2022 are...
Allessandra Harris and Simone Seikaly

Speeches, silence, during Pro-Life Utah memorial at the Capitol

About 100 people including Utah lawmakers and religious leaders attended the memorial on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
20 hours ago
School Shooting Newport News...
Aya Elamroussi, Chris Boyette, Dakin Andone and Michelle Watson, CNN

School board votes to cut ties with superintendent weeks after 6-year-old allegedly shot teacher

Administrators were warned that the child had a gun the day when a teacher was shot at the front door of Richneck Elementary School
20 hours ago
Crash totals...
Mark Jones

UHP: Semi rollover in Juab County has claimed at least one life

The Utah Highway Patrol says a semi rollover has resulted in the death of at least one person.
2 days ago
Photo from the National Transportation Safety Board investigation into a fatal crash at the Provo a...
Waverly Golden

Investigation of fatal accident at Provo airport includes witness statements

A crash at the Provo airport left one dead and three passengers with injuries on Jan. 2, 2023, an investigation reveals witness statements of the incident.
2 days ago
A fatal crash on Northbound Mountain View Corridor has caused...
Waverly Golden

Fatal crash on Mountain View Corridor causes significant delays

The West Valley City Police Department said a fatal crash on Northbound Mountain View Corridor has caused significant delays.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
‘Dirt into gold’ scam lands two Utah men in federal prison