By nearly anyone’s estimation, Mark Lubaszka led a lavish lifestyle. And with that came an implicit message: You could, too.
Articles were written about Lubaszka, published with photographs of him and a beautiful woman poolside at his Hollywood Hills mansion. Another showed Lubaszka walking toward his waiting Bentley.
And it seemed like his fortune was built out of gold coins.
Local news from across Southern California
He broadcast infomercials, sitting side by side with former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, extolling the benefits of investing in gold and silver coins.
And Shelly Smith thought it all seemed like a good idea. She contacted Lubaszka and arranged a meeting at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
“It was a very, very upscale breakfast and he was a very upscale person. He was impeccably dressed. He was bright,” Smith said.
She bought $40,000 of the coins and was handed a receipt saying the coins were being safely stored in a repository.
Smith said she was sure her investment was in good hands, and saw no reason not to invest even more money. This time, she purchased $60,000 worth of the coins, and that’s when she says the whole deal became tarnished. She says he never heard from Lubaszka again.
“He was gone. I tried to reach him in every way I knew how,” Smith said.
And while she could never find Lubaszka, she was able to find others with a similar story to her own.
Lesley Lawson in Luling, Texas, told us she had invested more than $200,000. Steve Gern is a disabled veteran in Glide, Ore., who says he invested half his life savings – $50,000 – with Lubaszka.
“I will never be able to save (that amount of money) again in this lifetime,” Gern said.
Gern and others like him have reached out to others who also say their money simply disappeared. By their count, they’ve tracked down 57 others who have invested nearly $2 million they fear they will never see again.
And they’re also concerned they’ll never see Lubaszka again.
Court records show Lubaszka had been convicted on drug charges and was ordered into rehab. After that, records show another arrest, this time for domestic violence. NBC4 confirmed at that time, he fled to South America.
Those who watched their investments vanish want to see U.S. law enforcement step up their efforts in the case. NBC4 has confirmed the FBI is investigating, though the details of that probe remain secret.
Steve Gern said Lubaszka should be returned to the U.S.
“I want the government to whom I have paid taxes, served in the military, I’m a disabled vet,” he said. “I did my part. I just want them to do their part.”
The Federal Trade Commission has a list of recommendations it makes before it says anyone should invest in any commodity like gold or silver. Click here to learn more.
More Top Stories: