TAMPA - A parade of burned investors told a federal jury Tuesday how Robert W. Snyder's radio commentary on everything from the thinning ozone layer to the South African economy sparked their interest in precious metals. The Safety Harbor man's ideas about the economy, inflation and the banking system made sense, said Michael Bishop, a doctor from Nashville, Tenn. "Buying metals was a means of hedging against all those potential disasters," Bishop said.
But Snyder's soliciting itself turned disastrous, Bishop and 10 other people said, when Snyder never delivered.
Snyder, 73, is charged with 19 counts of fraud. Prosecutors say he made at least $250,000 from would-be investors, money that has never been recovered.
Snyder had a one-hour talk show on WWQT-AM in Clearwater that was carried on Christian stations. Bishop said he first heard Snyder's show on a respected Christian radio station in Nashville in 1987. "He quoted Scripture in his show. It was clearly Christian-oriented," Bishop said. He sent $10 for Snyder's newsletter.
Before the newsletter arrived, Snyder called Bishop. During two hour-long conversations, Bishop revealed much about his private life, religious beliefsand failed investments. Bishop wired Snyder $2,000 for coins but never received any.
Elizabeth Stephens, of Birmingham, Ala., said she too had a long, rambling talk with Snyder after he called her. "I told him I lived on Social Security and a small savings," Stephens said.
But Snyder persuaded her to send him $1,489 for gold coins and silver quarters, Stephens said. She never got them, or a refund, and when she tried to call Snyder, she got only his machine.
When Bobby Stockstill, an electronics technician from Kingston, Tenn., called Snyder in January 1988 and left a message that he was interested in metals, Snyder called that day.
Stockstill ordered four gold Canadian Maple Leaf coins, for $2,040. "I assumed he was a Christian, and so I had more confidence in him," Stockstill testified.
Larry Leonard also thought Snyder was a good Christian, and believed the excuses after Snyder failed to deliver $4,700 in coins.
But after months passed, Leonard consulted the Bible himself for how to address the problem.
"Matthew said if a brother sins against you, confront him," Leonard said.
So he and his wife came to Florida. They went to church in Safety Harbor and asked the pastor to go with them to Snyder's house. Leonard testified that Snyder first tried to assure them nothing was wrong, but later admitted he had used Leonard's money to pay back other customers.