If Olympic winners took their gold medals to be tested and found out their prized possessions were actually made out of brass, the athletes could empathize with what some Uintah County residents experienced in 2002.
Believing they were buying gold bars from prospectors, several investors instead lost up to $250,000 after discovering that their supposedly precious purchases were about as valuable as fool's gold.
As a result of the alleged gold bar scheme, two amateur prospectors and a few of their friends now face felony charges of criminal simulation.
Investigators from the Uintah County Sheriff's Department say Troy Dubray, 40, Gusher; Charles Morales, 47, Roosevelt; Chad Horrocks, 49, Neola; and Josh Wilkerson, 23, Uintah County, worked together in 2002 to scam potential investors into believing Dubray had discovered a cache of Spanish gold ingots, nuggets and buttons in Little Mountain in Uintah County.
The men, court documents state, sold the ingots for $1,000 each and the buttons for $300. They apparently had no difficulty finding buyers to purchase the "gold" bars solely at the word of Dubray, who was known in treasure hunting circles. According to probable cause statements, Dubray assured the buyers the bars contained at least 50 to 65 percent gold.
Buyers apparently held on to the bars for about six months before becoming suspicious enough to have them assayed, or tested for content. In each case that has been reported and investigated, the bars turned out to have very little or no gold.
One buyer took his bars to five different places to be assayed and the results were the same each time — the bars were solid brass.
Buyers told sheriff's detectives that when they approached Dubray for their money back, he said he did not know the bars didn't contain gold and said he would give them a refund "within two weeks." But months later, they allege, Dubray failed to return any money.
One Vernal businessman lost $12,000 in the transactions, according to court records. Victims reported to investigators that as much as $250,000 in the fake gold may have been sold to people in Utah and other states.
The alleged scam, which began in early 2002, took in history buffs well acquainted with prospecting, along with those who simply believed the buy was a good investment.
Dubray continually declined to identify the location of the find but at one point said an Indian had shown him gold bars and revealed where he found the "Spanish gold." Dubray told at least one potential investor that he then "drove to the area and located the gold with his new machine."
A Roosevelt man, contacted shortly after the alleged gold mine discovery, said Dubray was very believable.
"He came to my house and he had a picture of these gold bars and had some with him. He knew I had some gold mine books and he wanted to look at them," said the man, who asked not to be identified.
"He wanted to know if I had a map where he could find the mine where these gold bars were smelted. I believed him, I thought they were real."
Dubray gave him a gold bar as a gift, but the man didn't buy any of the gold. He said he was excited about Dubray's claim — the two had hunted for hidden treasure in the past — and considered Dubray a friend.
The man showed the gold bar he'd been given by Dubray to others he thought would be interested in seeing or buying the bars. His own bar also was determined to be a fake.
"I felt bad that I showed them to friends and they bought them and they turned out to be fake," he said. "I was taken in just as much as they were."
Dubray is charged with four felony counts of criminal simulation and one second-degree felony count for pattern of unlawful activity. Morales is charged with a second- and third-degree felony count of criminal simulation.
Horrocks is charged with one second-degree felony count of criminal simulation. All three men have been released from jail on bond.
Sheriff's detectives have been unable to locate Wilkerson, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Wilkerson is charged with one count of third-degree felony criminal simulation.