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Wounded Coin Dealer’s High Life Included Debt, Threats

Times Staff Writers

As William D. King lay clinging to life Wednesday in a Fountain Valley hospital with a police guard at the door, the threads of his story slowly came together to reveal a tapestry of a high life gone bad, of federal investigations, huge debts and threats of Las Vegas musclemen going outside the law to collect from him.

His wife and a customer are dead, both victims of a Tuesday night attack on King’s Newport Beach rare-coin dealership. The same hail of bullets put King in the intensive care unit of Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center with gunshot wounds to the chest and head.

Renee Ratoon King, 38, and Clyde Oatts, 45, were pronounced dead where they fell--inside the offices of Newport Coin Exchange on MacArthur Boulevard, said Robert Oakley, a Newport Beach police spokesman.

William King, 36, was raced into emergency surgery, but pleaded with paramedics to let him die at the scene. A federal source said King and his wife, both of Orange, and Oatts, of Irvine, were shot in the back or top of the head in “execution style.”

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Oatts, a commodities broker at Monex International in Newport Beach, is survived by a wife; Renee King leaves three children under the age of 10.

Police are calling the shootings a “robbery-homicide,” although they said Wednesday night that they do not know whether anything was taken from King’s 4-year-old coin shop.

The shooting was the cap to nearly a decade of troubles--most of them the products of King’s business dealings. He is under investigation in allegations of bilking dozens of investors out of more than $1 million through a Newport Beach telemarketing company, Precious Metals Accumulation Corp., or Premaco.

A source close to the investigation said King and his lawyer had been negotiating with federal authorities concerning indictments on various mail and wire fraud charges in the case.

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King’s story, as recounted by colleagues, law enforcement sources and court documents, is a picture of wealth steadily slipping away--a gold Mercedes-Benz hocked for $50,000 cash, a house sold in December to repay debts, creditors still clamoring for money.

“He was a Type A personality, very aggressive,” said a coin industry source who knew King. “He was tough. . . . He lived fast. Every time he made money, he spent it.”

In 1983, King founded Premaco, which he operated with his wife. Through the company, he sold contracts for gold, platinum and silver.

Premaco salesmen hawked their wares to the investing public via telephone solicitations, promotional mailings, TV ads on Financial News Network and newspaper ads, according to an affidavit that postal inspectors filed in June to obtain a federal warrant to search King’s offices.

The firm initially came under investigation in 1986, when police received their first complaint from investors, according to Newport Beach Police Detective Mark Fisher. Investors said that they had not been able to liquidate precious-metals futures contracts and that when they tried to cash in their investments, they got no response from the company or--worse still--they got bad checks.

In June, 22 law enforcement officials from six state, local and federal agencies descended on Premaco’s two ground-floor suites in Newport Center and arrested King on suspicion of operating without a telemarketing license.

Eight brokers were arrested on suspicion of working for an unlicensed telemarketing company. All were later released on their own recognizance. King has not been indicted in the case.

Officials also seized 135 boxes and 24 filing cabinets full of documents. Premaco is now in receivership and no longer operating.

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Postal Inspector Kacy R. McClelland said in the affidavit filed before the search and arrest that he was looking into a dozen complaints.

Typical was this complaint in the affidavit from investor Gordon DeYoung of Northbridge, Mass., who said he paid a $15,640 deposit on a silver contract early in 1988 but was not given his money back when he became suspicious and asked for it.

And then there was the enraged investor who apparently decided to take matters into his own hands. King called Newport Beach police to his office June 14 to complain that a Las Vegas casino promoter and his “four musclemen” showed up in Newport Beach to demand the $150,000 he owed the promoter.

An attorney representing the promoter, Norbert Aleman, told King that “his client was not willing to go through civil courts to collect,” McClelland said in the affidavit.

Following that confrontation, King told Newport Beach Detective Tim Grundemann that “I’d be the first to admit that I owe him $150,000,” McClelland said, adding that King also admitted to Newport Beach police that he recently refinanced his Mercedes-Benz to obtain $50,000 in cash.

After postal inspectors presented the search warrant at King’s offices to examine client files, ledger books and telephone records, McClelland wrote in the affidavit that Premaco is “a boiler room . . . to execute a scheme . . . to defraud and to obtain money improperly from victims under false or fraudulent pretenses.”

Had Been Liquidating Assets

A police source said Wednesday that King had been liquidating his assets--including the December sale of his half-million-dollar house--to cover his debts.

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“He was trying to make good the money that was owed--out of his own pocket--because it (Premaco) was his company,” the source said.

Twice in the last decade, King has been named as a defendant in lawsuits alleging investment fraud. In 1983, he and other members of Diversified Financial Consultants Inc., a Newport Beach loan brokerage firm, were accused in court of bilking investors out of about $3 million.

The firm eventually sought protection in federal bankruptcy court, and investors were not paid, according to lawsuits filed in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Sued by Dana Point Couple

In 1985, King and his Newport Coin Exchange were sued in Superior Court by a Dana Point couple, alleging that King had defrauded them out of $90,000 in jewels. In a lawsuit seeking $1 million in punitive damages, Douglas and Mary Robinson said that they had given King the jewels on a consignment basis but that he did not send them money he made by selling them. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

In August, 1981, the federal Commodities Future Trading Commission filed an administrative judgment against King, federal records show.

King and Premaco were also prohibited from trading in Georgia.

King bought Newport Coin Exchange in 1985 from Doug Robinson, owner of Robinson Investments in Dana Point. King ran the business, Robinson said, and Renee King’s “primary function was accounting and bookkeeping. She worked the front end, the counter, was involved in sales, things of that nature.”

Although Robinson said King owes him no money in the sale of Newport Coin Exchange, he was reluctant to discuss King’s standing among those in the coin investment business or King’s troubles.

‘Quite a Large Financial Mess’

“I believe he had difficulties,” Robinson said. “You know of his background (in Premaco involving) leverage gold and silver purchases. I think that turned into quite a large financial mess for him. I don’t know if it had anything to do with what happened last night.”

One coin industry source said Wednesday that personal and financial difficulties had changed King, a man he had known for more than a decade.

“Billy and Renee had a child that was born 7 or 8 years ago which died, a tragic childhood disease kind of thing,” the source said. “Billy sort of went off the deep end after that.”

Another coin industry source said King tooled around about 5 years ago in a white, 1984 Cadillac El Dorado convertible with a burgundy top, buying silver contracts over his cellular telephone.

‘He Made Money, He Spent It’

“Then in March of 1987, when silver went up to $11 an ounce, he bought a gold Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL and a Cadillac limo,” the source said. “That’s when things went bad. He made all that money. Every time he made money, he spent it.”

King was on probation when he was shot. He had a 1983 conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was ordered by a county Municipal Court judge to attend 60 sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous in lieu of serving 90 days in Orange County Jail, court records show. He was also placed on 3 years’ probation.

And on March 1, 1988, he was arrested in Costa Mesa on suspicion of drunk driving, hit and run, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road, according to Department of Motor Vehicles and court records. He was convicted Aug. 23, his driver’s license was suspended and he was placed on probation through 1991.

Second Squad of Investigators

As King lay in critical condition in his hospital bed Wednesday night, a second squad of Newport Beach investigators was briefed and sent out to track down his assailants.

Police will not say whether King has talked about Tuesday’s murders, but they have questioned family members and bystanders.

“The significant witnesses are deceased or ill,” said Lt. Tim Newman, a Newport Beach police spokesman. “We’ve had crews of guys working all day. A group of guys is going out tonight. . . . We do have information that we’re pursuing regarding suspects.”


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