Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that there was a simple reason why Robert W. Snyder could offer gold, silver and platinum at such low prices to listeners of his radio commentaries: He never intended to deliver. Snyder's intent is the key issue jurors must decide as they begin deliberations today in his fraud trial.
The 73-year-old Safety Harbor man is charged with fleecing dozens of people out of more than $250,000 by persuading them to invest in precious metals, then failing to supply the goods.
Snyder's sole defense consisted of his own testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday. He cried as he told jurors about his long career in broadcasting, and how he got into precious metals investing in the early 1970s.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors conceded that Snyder tells a good story, but said it is just an example of how he coaxed religious, patriotic and vulnerable people to part with their money.
"Every con has a line," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Hyman. "He found whatever it was that made you tick, then became your friend."
"What he said sounded good," said Assistant U.S.Attorney Robert Monk, "other than the fact you could never get a straight answer out of him about where the money went."
Monk reviewed the testimony of some 30 investors from Texas to Alaska who sent for Snyder's newsletter after hearing his right-wing rantings on radio shows. Like his broadcasts, Monk said, Snyder's newsletter focused on political strife in South Africa (a major source of gold), AIDS, the savings and loan crisis, and the perilous status of family values, all "issues calculated to instill fear."
But Snyder's attorney, assistant federal public defender Anthony Martinez, said Snyder's ultraconservative political views were honest beliefs, not tools to lure victims of a fraud.
"He's just a stupid businessman who wound up here with a major mess," Martinez said.
Snyder pleaded no contest to a similar scheme in Pinellas County in the early 1980s. He was ordered to pay restitution of $500,000 to 57 victims. Federal prosecutors say Snyder used about $50,000 of the money he got in 1987 and 1988 to pay part of that restitution, but that he pocketed more than $250,000.