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Category: Coin Crime Alert

California Gold Dealer, Superior Gold Group LLC is seized, assets frozen

On Monday, a California judge froze the assets of Superior Gold Group LLC of 100 Wilshire Boulevard, as well another office in Woodland Hills,  after it was accused of fraudulent business practices in a civil lawsuit filed against the company and owner Bruce Sands by the Los Angeles County district attorney and the Santa Monica city attorney.
Editors Note: This company has NO relationship to Superior Galleries, a well known and respected numismatic firm.

Superior Gold Group, which sold gold coins and bullion and other precious metals, is alledged to have taken  payments from customers but never delivered the gold ordered, charged prices much higher than fair market value and misled customers into buying expensive specialty coins according to the lawsuit, filed Friday.

In their lawsuit, the agencies said Superior Gold took advantage of investors who flocked to gold as the price of the precious metal rose and the value of many other investments fell in recent years.

“By fostering fear and confusion among its customers, Superior has induced them to pay far above market prices for various gold products,” the complaint said.

In a report by The LA Times, they recounted one victims story…”

Steven Siry, 61, of Los Angeles is one customer who believes he was ripped off. Siry said he invested $20,000 in a “gold IRA” through Superior Gold. But company representatives sold him collector’s coins at an inflated rate rather than offering him bullion, and it took more than a year and numerous phone calls before the coins were delivered to the trust company that was to hold them, he said.

Siry estimates the actual value of the gold, when it finally arrived, as a little more than half of what he paid for it.

“It was a big mess, it was uncomfortable, and I felt kind of stupid, quite frankly, because I didn’t do enough shopping before I used them,” he said.

In another complaint the victim stated: “Nearly two years ago (Mar. ’09), I purchased approx. $47, 000 worth of gold and silver coins (my entire life savings). I have yet to recieve (sic) a single coin! I have been calling for years and they refuse to give me my money back or to buy my coins,” (more…)

Coins and the Law: Recent Stories on Numismatic Crime

Alledged “Coin Broker” Convinced Elderly Woman to put Life Savings Into Gold Coins, then Steals them Back

The Manhattan DA’s office announced the indictment of a “rare coin broker” who allegedly convinced an elderly woman and her daughter to invest their life savings in rare gold and silver coins, and then stole $430,000 worth of the coins back from them.

The “Coin Broker/Advisor”, Stephanie Brown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, has been charged with grand larceny, fraud and forgery to name a few, and DA Cy Vance said, “The defendant preyed upon the victims’ fears of a national financial collapse and convinced them to sink their life savings into collector coins.”

According to a Wall Street Journal Article,”Over the next two and a half years, the 83-year-old mother ensnared in the alleged scheme spent $1 million — her life’s savings — and her daughter paid $80,000 to acquire about 160 coins, according to prosecutors. Brown earned $100,000 in commission on the sales.Brown began selling them coins in March of 2007, and soon convinced them to “liquidate all financial investments they held and to invest their life’s savings in gold coins.” The mother and daughter combined spent about $1.1 million on the coins, and Brown  reportedly earned commissions of about $100,000.

Brown then allegedly convinced the two to keep the coins at home, and then gained entry to their house, after which she was left alone with the coins. She is accused of destroying the documents identifying the coins and stealing 57 of their 160 coins, worth $430,000. Prosecutors have now recovered 16 of the stolen coins, which Brown had resold.

Brown is currently under investigation in connection with coin sales in California and Arizona, prosecutors said, but she has not been charged in those states. She was a former employee of ITM Trading and began her own business, GBA Gold, a/k/a GBA Investments LLC ( The Web Site has been suspended) 26546 N. Alma School Road #230 Scottsdale, AZ 85255 ( Better Business Member with an A- rating joined on 7/20/2010)

Editors Note: If you read through a number the articles written about this story, it is amazing to read certain statements and characterizations.

For example, Ms Brown was described as a “Rare Coin Expert” in one WSJ article. Funny, i thought she was just a thief and a con artist. Is she indeed a “Coin Expert” or just a person selling coins? You decide. Here is a link to a brief profile on Ms. Brown.

In another article the Daily News writer made the following comment on the Gold market; “While gold has traded at an all-time high, topping $1,400 an ounce in the past few days, collectible coins are not as safe as gold because they are gilt, not solid gold.”  Even Assistant District Attorney Adam Kaufmann gave his opinion on the coin market saying.”Gold coins are not a great hedge in these economic times” REALLY?

Finally Minyanville.com took a more political angle on the story with their headline “Gold Coin Scammer Takes Page From Glenn Beck’s Playbook” Somehow I don’t think this story has anything to do with Glen Beck, Fox News, Goldline or NY Rep Wiener. Give it a rest….

Stolen Coins Removed from London Auction

The Sofia News Agency reported that Bulgarian medieval coins which were to part of a Nov 10th auction by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc in London has been removed from the sale, including a very rare silver penny of despot Dobrotitsa, minted in Kaliakra.

In 2007, a collection of 500 medieval crosses and 2 000 medieval coins, including the said silver penny, were stolen from the home of one of the authors of the book titled “Bulgarian Antique Coins from the 9th to the 15th Century Period” , published in 1999.

After the joint operation between the Main Directorate “Criminal Police,” the Bulgarian Culture Ministry, and the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations, the Bulgarian medieval coins have been taken off the auction site and their sale halted. (more…)

Stolen Coin Alert: St. Paul, Minnesota

Numismatic Crime Information Crime Bulletin/Alert

The South St. Paul Minnesota Police Department is investigating the September 26, 2010 vehicle burglary of coin dealer Lee Orr. At approximately 2:10pm in the afternoon the victim was loading his vehicle preparing to leave a local coin show in South St. Paul.

When the victim walked back inside the show to retrieve the last of his inventory two white male suspects smashed the windows in his vehicle and removed two cases of coins.

The following is a partial list of coins;
GOLD COINS: 2 1895 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw 1 1896 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw 2 1897-S $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw 1 1900 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw 1 1901 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw 1 1904 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw 1 1906 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw D or S 1 1907 $20 Lib Au/Bu Raw D or S 7 1908 $20 Saint Au/Bu Raw 3 1910-S $20 Saint Au/Bu Raw 1 1913 $20 Saint AU Raw 1 1913-D $20 Saint AU Raw 1 1914-S $20 Saint Au/Bu Raw 1 1915-S $20 Saint Au/Bu Raw 4 1922

DOLLARS: 1 1903-S $1 NGC MS62 White 2 1903-O $1 PCGS MS63 White 1 1901-S $1 PCGS MS64 White 1 1894 $1 VF/XF Raw 1 1893-S $1 PCGS VG original 1 1892-CC $1 AU Raw – White Dipped out. 1 1885-S $1 PCGS MS63 White

HALF DOLLARS – CENTS: 1 1806 50c ANACS VF30 Deep Gray toning with blue between rims & stars 1 1806 50c VF Raw 1 1808/7 50c AU Raw 1 1809 50c AU Raw 1 1811 50c AU Raw 1 1839-O 50c XF/AU Raw – Cleaned & retoned 1 1872-CC 50c VF/XF Raw – Cleaned & retoned 1 1923-S 25c XF40 Raw 1 1896-S 25c AG Raw 2 1896-S 25c Good Raw 1 1913-S 25c Good Raw 1 1807 10c VF Raw – Obv 1 1812 1c AU Raw – Distinct Rim Nick showing bright copper color

4 Double Row Boxes Raw Collector Coins with many key dates 1 Double Row Box Slabs Dollars after 1880, Commemoratives, Gold.

Any dealer or collector having information regarding this offense should contact:
Det. Julie Bishop
South St. Paul PD
612-747-2409
Or
Doug Davis
Numismatic Crime Information Center
817-723-7231

The Numismatic Crime Information Center is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation established as a resource for dealers, collectors, victims and law enforcement during the investigation of a numismatic crime. All donations are tax deductible.

Gold Shipwreck Bar Valued at $550,00 Stolen from Mel Fisher Museum

One of the most iconic and best-known objects’ at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum was taken. The gold bar came from a 1622 shipwreck that Fisher discovered.

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida holds the richest single collection of 17th-century maritime and shipwreck antiquities in the Western Hemisphere, including treasures and artifacts from the Atocha and Santa Margarita.

It was reported that two thieves entered a museum shortly after closing at 5PM and stole a 74.85-ounce, 11-inch (28-centimeter) gold bar which was inside a glass display case with a small opening where visitors could stick a hand inside and lift the bar to examine it.

Photo Credit: Miami Herald/Florida Keys News Bureau

Police and the FBI are working to identify the suspects who took the gold bar which had been on display for more than 20 years. Surveillance captures caught the faces of these two men, believed to be the suspects who walked off with the gold bar.

According to Alyson Crean, Key West Police spokeswoman, one suspect is described as a white male, about six feet tall with dark hair and a medium build. The second suspect is about five feet, six inches tall.

Anyone with information about these men should contact the Key West Police Department at (305) 809-1111.

The Gold bar has an estimated value of $550,000 and the Museums insurance company is offering a $10 thousand reward.

“Everybody who comes to the museum is encouraged to lift the gold bar and to have a firsthand experience with history,” said Melissa Kendrick, the museum’s executive director. “This is one of the most iconic and best-known objects in the museum.”

“The security systems worked because we knew the bar was stolen within 10 minutes, and we have usable video and photos for law enforcement,” Kendrick said. “The museum made a decision to designate this as a handling object, allowing people to touch the artifact, and this was part of the risk involved in granting public access.”

Unique NJ Banknotes Stolen 2 Years Ago Returned to Owner at Long Beach Coin Expo

A unique six-note uncut sheet of $5 New Jersey National Currency notes stolen two years ago was returned to its grateful owner at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo during dealer set up on June 2, 2010. The sheet was taken in an October 2008 burglary from the offices of dealer Kevin Lipton of Beverly Hills, California, and is the only item recovered so far.

Beverly Hills, California dealer Kevin Lipton happily holds the recovered six-note $5 National Currency sheet from the Branchville, NJ Bank stolen from his office in 2008.  It was recently recovered by Virgel Nickell and brought to him at the June 2010 Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo.  (Photo credit: Donn Pearlman.)

“It’s the only thing stolen from my office that I ever cared anything about,” said Lipton who gratefully gave a $5,000 reward to the part-time dealer who recovered and returned the sheet.

“The notes are from Branchville, New Jersey, and that’s the town where I went to summer camp as a child. I bought the sheet at a Christie’s auction in 1982, and they were framed and displayed in my office for years. The notes are reminiscent of my youth,” explained Lipton.

The sheet is the only known six-note uncut sheet of Series 1929 Type II National Currency $5 notes from The Branchville Bank in Branchville, New Jersey. The notes are consecutively numbered, A000001 through A000006.

It was recovered unframed by Virgel Nickell of Santa Ana, California who describes himself as “a dabbler” in National bank notes. Nickell was at a swap meet in Huntington Beach, California in early May when he was approached by a young man who wanted to sell the notes.

“He wanted $500 for it. I figured it was a common sheet, but my reaction was that it was good buy at $500. But when a friend and I researched it on the Internet we learned it was not only rare, it was not mine,” said Nickell.

“I knew I couldn’t keep it. I had to return this to its owner, so I brought the sheet to Long Beach because I thought Kevin would be there. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I cried when he gave me money for it. I wasn’t expecting that.”

“I couldn’t believe it when he showed me the notes. They’re the only thing taken that I cared about,” Lipton reiterated.

Long Beach Expo General Chairman Ronald J. Gillio was at Lipton’s table as the notes were being returned.
“Kevin was ecstatic. He was so excited, his face was just beaming,” Gillio said.

Anyone with information regarding the theft or the still missing coins and paper money is urged to contact the Detective Division of the Beverly Hills Police Department at (310) 285-2158.

Felon Arrested and $95,000 in Rare Chinese Gold Coins Recovered

On April 2, 2010 the Numismatic Crime Information Center and several dealers in the Los Angeles California area were instrumental in assisting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department in a dramatic arrest and recovery of $95,000 in rare Chinese gold coins.

Det. Lord with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department contacted the Numismatic Crime Information Center at Numismaticcrimes.org and requested assistance on an individual attempting to pawn six 1921 China Republic $1 gold coins for $20,000 a piece. Doug Davis Founder/President of NCIC contacted Det.Lord by phone and offered the services of the Numismatic Crime Information Center. While on the phone Det.Lord and other officers had the suspect under surveillance and Lord proceeded to explain the circumstances to Davis. Det. Lord advised Davis that they were in the process of taking down the suspect and would need assistance in identifying the coins. The suspect was arrested and the coins confiscated.

Det. Lord forwarded pictures of the coins to Davis which were housed in plastic 2×2’s and had stickers imprinted with a number and the name Sotheby’s on the outside. Concerned about the authenticity of the coins Davis contacted PNG dealer Robert Van Bebber to assist investigators. The coins were taken to Van Bebber and after examination he validated the authenticity of the coins. In addition, contact was made with Sotheby’s who identified the coins as being those sold in a 1986 auction.

Although there had been an arrest and the coins recovered no victim had been identified. Davis contacted several dealers in the southern California area who specialize in world coins to determine the potential identity of the victim. No one could provide any information on the offense. During the course of the investigation an informant advised investigators that the suspect had burglarized several businesses in the Los Angeles area and showed them the locations. Investigators contacted one of the business owner‘s who identified the coins. The victim had bought the coins for $25,000 in a 1986 Sotheby’s auction and did not know they had been stolen.

“This is the first case we have investigated involving coins and the resources provided by the Numismatic Crime Information Center were invaluable in the successful conclusion”, said Det. Lord. The suspect a known felon was charged with several burglaries and faces life in prison. (more…)

Massacussetts Coin Dealer Lano Balulesco Reports Theft

The following Email was received from Detective Christopher Browne of the Acton, Mass Police Department reporting the theft of coins from his car and reported the crime to the police at 3:49 p.m. April 3.

“Coin dealer Lano Balulesco of Concord, MA, had just departed from a Coin Show in Neighboring Town of Westford Ma.

Lano had his coins on display at the show. Lano drove to 305 Main St Acton, Ma. and parked his car in a shopping plaza parking lot. He went into a store at the plaza for just minutes and came out and found his car window smashed and his suit case of coins stolen.

Coins are valued at approximately half million dollars. Attached is an itemized list of stolen coins.

My contact information is below but if you need any other information do not hesitate to contact me.”

Detective Christopher Browne
Acton Police Department
Phone: (978)264-9640
Fax: (978)263-3501
cbrowne@acton-ma.gov

Itemized list of stolen coins

Colonial 1787 PCGS VF30 Conn, Draped Bust Left
Colonial 1787 NGC VF30 Mass 1c
1/2c 1794 NGC XF45 C-1a
1/2c 1797 NGC VF35 C-2, plain edge
1/2c 1806 PCGS MS62B
Large 1c 1793 PCGS F12 wreath, lettered edge
Large 1c 1794 NGC VF35 head of ’94
Large 1c 1794 PCGS XF40 head of ’94
Large 1c 1821 NGC AU53 (more…)

Coin Dealer Julian Leidman Victim of Vehicle Burglary. Reward Grows to $156,000

Updated 10/19/2009 – The Township of Montville, New Jersey police department is investigating the October 11, 2009 auto burglary of coin dealer Julian Leidman. Mr. Leidman was en route home after participating in Coinfest Coin Show held in Stamford Connecticut. The suspect or suspects entered Leidman’s vehicle by smashing out a side window during a stop in Pine Brook, New Jersey. Virtually his entire inventory was taken ; over 1,000 coins including about 300 certified, encapsulated items as well as currency ranging from Colonial era to small size notes. Fortunately, Mr. Leidman was unhurt in the incident.

coin_crime_alertMr Leidman stated some of the significant coins included; ” several scarce Saints, 1920-s, 1921, 1925-s, 1927-s, & 1932. There is a 1794 dollar that is flawed. There are several Gem Busties, including 1806 O-123, prime; 1807 O-113, 1826, 1829, 1832. There is currency from colonial thru small size; some foreign coins from minor thru gold, probably numbering a few hundred coins. The most identifiable is a 1929 German 5 Mark that is about 25% off center and probably unique.” Other coins taken in the theft include 1873 proof pattern silver Trade dollar (J-1276), graded NGC PF65; 1879 proof silver dollar (J-1617), NGC PF65; and an 1892-O proof Morgan dollar described as very choice.

leidman_79_pattern_dollarThe response from both the collector and dealer community was a mixture of shock, concern and resolve. Immediately after the burglary was announced the message boards started to inquire as to Mr. Leidman’s safety, which then spun into requests for lists of the coins taken and a number of emails sent to surrounding coin shops warning them to be on the lookout for any unusual offerings of coins.

Coinfest owners Jon Lerner and Laura Sperber each immediately offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for this robbery. This was followed up by The Professional Numismatist Guild contributing an additional $2,500 to the reward, and dealer William Dominick is contributing an additional $10,000. This was followed by others dealers contributions; John Albanese $10,000, Kenny Duncan $10,000, Kevin Lipton $10,000, Bob Higgins has added another $1000 as did James Long, and Wayne Herndon also added $2,500 to the reward fund.

Since this story was first posted additional contributions to the reward fund have come in; Matt Lerner $1,000, Joseph O’Connor $5,000, John Feigenbaum $ 2,500,James Sego $1,000, Larry Shapiro $1,000, Ray Hinkelman + Phil Hinkelman $1,000, Tom Crabtree $ 5,000, Dave Wnuck & John Agre $ 2,500, Dave Albanese $1,000, Rob Lehman $1,000, Bill Panitch $ 500, Cary Moomijian $ 1,000,Ron Chiasson $ 500, Ken Goldman $ 2,000, John Abbott $ 1,000, Michael Casper $ 1,000, Elliott Durann – $ 500, Dave Schweitz – $ 2,500, Chris McCawley – $ 1,000, John Pasciuti $1,000, Shawn Bergan $ 250, Steve Gerhinger $2,500, David Weygant $ 1,000, Jan Olav Aamlid $ 1,000, Ed Milas $ 1,000, Harry Jones $1000, Paul Montgomery $ 1,000, Harry Laibstain $ 1,000, Fred Weinberg $ 1,000, Matthew DeRoma $ 1,000, Jack Lee $ 1,000, Heritage $10000, John Maben $5000, Paul Nugget- Greg Roberts- Andrew Glassman- Bobby Avena $3500, Don Kagin $1000, Sheridan Downey $2500, Andy Lustig $1000, Jason Carter $2500, Allan Rowe $1000, Tom Bush $ 1,000, Sam Lopresto $1000, Dustin Massie $1000, Whitman Publ. $2500, Stack’s $2500, Andrew Kimmel $1000, Dana Samuelson $1000, David Hall $10000, PCGS $5000, Sil DiGenova $2000, Coininfo.com $1000, Rocky Mountain Coin $500, Lee Minshull $5000

Presently the reward has grown to $122,500.

We urge Any Dealer or Collector to contact Detective Christopher M. Keezer of the Montville NJ Police Department at 973-257-4113 (CKeezeer@MontvilleNJ.org)or Julian Leidman at 301-585-8467 if they have any information about this crime, or think that any of the coins listed below are being offered for sale either online or in person. This is especially true for those attending flea markets, local auction houses, online auctions and “Brick and Mortar” coin shops on the East Coast.
(more…)

Millions Lost From Coin Fakes, Hobby Leaders Warn

Chinese-made counterfeit coins pose a significant financial threat to unsuspecting consumers, according to leaders of five of the country’s most influential rare coin organizations. They warn the public is spending millions of dollars on fake U.S. coins offered in online auctions and elsewhere, such as flea markets and swap meets.

fake_1915-D_5In a jointly-issued consumer advisory (below) the groups caution the public not to purchase any so-called “replica” coins because they may be in violation of federal law. They also urge consumers to only purchase genuine rare coins from reputable, professional dealers or face the risk of losing money on copies that are illegal to re-sell.

Below is the consumer protection warning issued by (in alphabetical order) the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (www.ICTAonline.org), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (www.NGCcoin.com), Professional Coin Grading Service (www.PCGS.com) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (www.PNGdealers.com).

Hobby periodicals report that more than a million counterfeit coins manufactured in China have been fraudulently sold in the United States posing a significant financial risk for unsuspecting consumers. Buyer beware! Consumers who buy an item based only on its perceived rarity and who have no knowledge as to how to determine whether the coin is genuine subject themselves to great risk of losing their money

The American Numismatic Association (ANA), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Professional Coin Grading Service (www.PCGS.com) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) urge consumers to educate themselves before making purchases: know what you are buying and purchase only from reputable, experienced rare coin dealers (professional numismatists).

“We believe many of these counterfeits subsequently are being resold as genuine rare coins in online auctions and at flea markets and swap meets,” said Clifford Mishler, ANA President.

“Millions of dollars already have been spent on these fakes and potentially millions more may be unwittingly lost by consumers who mistakenly think they’re getting a genuine rare coin,” warned Paul Montgomery, PNG President.
(more…)

ForgeryNetwork.com

Dies used to make counterfeit coins - From About.comMark Naber, founder of ForgeryNetwork.com, answers a few questions about collectable coin forgeries and the purpose of ForgeryNetwork.com.

How bad is the risk of buying counterfeits?

This really is quite a complicated question, depending on what you buy, what venue you buy through and your expertise in the area you collect and your ability to identify the tell tale signs of counterfeits. The dealer and geographical location of where your buy your coins will also impact the risk of buying a counterfeit. For example, if you are inexperienced collector looking for bargains on EBay from unknown dealers, in places such as China, you will almost certainly purchase counterfeits. On the other end of spectrum if you are experienced and buying from reputable dealers whom are experienced in that area, your risk is very low. Knowledge of what you are buying and whom you are buying through is the key to lowering risk. This is nothing new to most seasoned collectors, but it is unfortunate to see new collectors falling into these traps.

What would you advise new collectors to do?

The best advice I would give new collectors is to start small and slowly gain the knowledge as you go. By small I mean don’t spend much – let your spending habits slowly increase along with your expertise. Buy from reputable dealers whom specialise in what you wish to collect, join relevant clubs and discussion boards on the internet and learn; there is a wealth of information nowadays thanks to the internet. There is also a rule of thumb that one should spend 5%-10% of your annual collection budget upon books about coins and coin forgeries. The most risky thing a new collector can do is look for bargains without adequate knowledge. The old saying applies – If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. (more…)