PNG member helps FBI nab theft suspects

All dealers should be cautious about possible long-term ramifications of cashing fraudulent checks

(Temecula, California) December 19, 2017 — A long-time member of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in solving a case involving an attempt by suspected thieves to purchase $2 million of gold using a bank check with the forged signature of a deceased New York City woman.

It is a cautionary tale for all dealers about the potential long-term effects of cashing a fraudulent check, even if they first verified the account with the bank.

On December 6, 2017, the acting United States attorney for the southern district of New York, Joon H. Kim, and the assistant director-in-charge of the New York Field Office of the FBI, William F. Sweeney Jr., announced the arrests that day of two suspects in the case.

According to a joint statement by the Justice Department and the FBI, Stephen Decker, 59, of Secaucus, New Jersey, and Luis Mercado, 53, of Manhattan, New York, are charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The case began in January 2017 when the PNG member-dealer, who wants to remain anonymous, received a phone call on a Friday afternoon from a man who stated he wanted to purchase $2 million worth of gold but didn’t care what he purchased as long as it could be quickly delivered.

The dealer said he would get back to the caller to get more information, but on Monday morning the dealer received a check sent by the man in the amount of $2 million drawn on an account at the Bank of New York; however, the account was in a woman’s name.

“When someone’s buying $2 million worth of gold, they want to know what they’re getting and when they’re getting it. This just smelled bad,” explained the PNG member who wanted to delay any delivery of gold until he could verify the authenticity of the bank check.

“As the days went on, the caller changed his story, first claiming he was the grandson of the woman whose name and signature were on the check, and then claimed he was a grandnephew. He also only called me and refused to give his direct phone number. He only provided a number for an answering service where I could leave a message,” added the veteran rare coin and precious metals dealer.

The dealer repeatedly contacted the Bank of New York to verify the funds were good and repeatedly was told they were, but he remained suspicious. He contacted the FBI in New York to report his suspicions, and also contacted a former FBI agent he’s known for years. The FBI subsequently opened an investigation.

According to the Acting U.S. Attorney Kim, the two suspects allegedly “preyed on a deceased New Yorker’s estate by stealing millions in stock certificates from her home. Then, in an attempt to cover their tracks, the defendants allegedly sold the certificates and tried to purchase more than $2 million in gold coins so that the ill-gotten gains couldn’t be traced to them.”

The FBI’s Sweeney stated: “As alleged when Decker and Mercado cashed out on stolen stock certificates, their right to ownership was nothing more than fool’s gold. Not only did the certificates not belong to them, their rightful owner was an elderly deceased woman with no representatives to stake her claim.”

The PNG dealer had cashed the $2 million check but kept the funds knowing the money eventually would be returned to the bank.

“This experienced dealer knew what some other dealers may not realize,” explained PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman. “The bank could have up to six months to reclaim the money once they learned the check was not good.”

“In this case, had a dealer cashed the bad check, used those funds and sent the merchandise to the suspects, within days, weeks or months, he could have been ‘out’ millions of dollars,” cautioned Brueggeman.

“I asked the Bank of New York for a simple ‘thank you’ note, but even though I saved them $2 million and returned the funds as planned, they never said ‘thanks.’ I did get a nice note from one of the FBI agents who investigated the case. In any event, I’m happy my suspicions helped resolve a theft case,” said the PNG member who is a PNG-accredited precious metals dealer.

Founded in 1955, the Professional Numismatists Guild is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the country’s top rare coin and paper money experts who undergo a background check, must adhere to a strict code of ethics in the buying and selling of numismatic items, and who guarantee the authenticity of the numismatic merchandise they sell. The PNG mission statement is: Ensuring integrity, instilling confidence, and promoting professionalism for the benefit of all numismatic collectors and professionals.

A directory of PNG member-dealers is online and a directory of PNG-accredited precious metals dealers can be found here.

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  1. KEITHSTER says

    Ouch glad .my only worry on a returned check would be the late charges on not enough funds. But that’s why the debit card So no worry about bad check for millions? So Good Luck All:>:>:>”<"<"<

  2. cagcrisp says

    “Coinbase, one of the biggest bitcoin marketplaces, says buying and selling temporarily disabled amid price rout”

    per CNBC…

  3. ips_stuff says

    @cagcrisp – Bitcoin coin seems to have stabilized (for now)

    I own none for disclosure.
    It seems if some type of cryptocurrency is going to last, the number of different ones needs to be reduced.

    Since Bitcoin is still up over 50% for the month, not sure “PRICE ROUT” is appropriate wording. Down 40% in a day seems like a rout, but when you look at the month, not so much.

    Gold has been on a much slower,4 year plus, ROUT of about 35%

    Do you want to rip your band-aid of quickly or slowly ?

  4. cagcrisp says

    You can see how many people are jumping Out of the Cryptos and Back into Gold and Silver.

    The USD is Stronger and Gold and Silver are Stronger…

  5. Joe M. says

    Wait… “The bank could have up to six months to reclaim the money once they learned the check was not good.”
    Up to six months??
    What is the “HOLD” they put on checks for 3-5 days for? It seems to me that once a check clears, the bank is “stating” THE FUNDS ARE GOOD! Why do the banks get 6 months? Why not 60 days, 45, 30, 3-5 business days????
    Also, if I were the dealer, I’d change banks for not thanking me. How much time, paperwork, and fees the would the bank have accumulated if it had been someone else who wasn’t as keen as this dealer??

  6. cagcrisp says

    @ips_stuff, “It seems if some type of cryptocurrency is going to last, the number of different ones needs to be reduced. ”

    I Agree 100%. Currently there are over 1300 cryptocurrencies worldwide.

    My guess is since the US is going cashless that eventually the Treasury will support it’s own version…but it will not be bitcoin…

  7. cagcrisp says

    Another Gimmick by the Mint to force sales…

    From CW: “The five 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial Coin and Medal sets to be offered by the U.S. Mint will be available for sale during only a 30-day purchasing window, or less if the maximum authorized mintage sells out before the end of that period.”…

  8. earthling says

    “The five 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial Coin and Medal sets to be offered by the U.S. Mint will be available for sale during only a 30-day purchasing window, or less if the maximum authorized mintage sells out before the end of that period.”…

    Somebodies smokin too much Crak. Of course those Medals and THAT Coin would be a better money toss than Bitcoin.

  9. cagcrisp says

    Someone explain this to me…

    Why would Anyone purchase a Boys Town Uncirculated Gold coin on the bay (or elsewhere) for $850.00?

    Why oh Why would Anyone buy this coin on the secondary market for anything more than issue price?

    Did you not Know for 8 months that this would be the All Time Low Mintage Wonder for a commemorative Gold coin?

    Why wait 8 months and just because it Sold Out 3 weeks early, Buy?

    Just because it is 2000+ coins Under the previous All Time Low Mintage Wonder for a commemorative? What difference does that make? Low is Low, it doesn’t matter how low.

    Why oh Why?

    It can’t be because of the Low Mintage. Currently there are 16 First Spouse Gold coins minted, in the clubhouse, that have a Lower Mintage. Roosevelt has an unaudited mintage of 1886. That’s 37 percent LESS than the last reported sales number for the Boys Town Gold Uncirculated.

    Why oh Why?

    It can’t be because you can’t find a Lower Mintage Gold coin available for a descent price. There are Currently 9 First Spouse Gold coins available from the Mint directly (with free return policy) that have a Lower Mintage than the Boys Town Gold Uncirculated.

    That means when it’s all said and done there will be 25 Gold coins that have a Lower Mintage than the Boys Town Gold Uncirculated.

    Why oh Why?

    It can’t be the cost of $850.00 on the secondary market. Currently you can purchase a Gold Proof First Spouse with Lower Mintage for $840.00 and you can purchase a Gold Uncirculated First Spouse with Lower Mintage for $820.00. So it can’t be the cost.

    Why oh Why?

    It can’t be the Gold content. The Boys Towns Gold Uncirculated has .241875 oz. Gold whereas the First Spouse coins have Twice as much Gold content with .50 oz. Gold. So IF you bought on the bay you would be paying $850.00 for .241875 oz. Gold commemorative vs. $840.00 or $820.00 for more than Twice the Gold in a First Spouse…It can’t be the Gold content.

    Why oh Why?

    It can’t be the desirability. The Boys Town Gold Uncirculated is the Least minted Gold commemorative coin of All Time. The First Spouse Gold coins are even Less desirable. I will go so far as to say you would have a hard time finding a Gold coin ever Minted by the US Mint that is less desirable than the First Spouse series.

    Why oh Why?

    It can’t be because of the word “commemorative” vs. the word “First Spouse”. One “commemorative” in a string of commemoratives is less relevant than one “First Spouse” in a string of First Spouses. At least with a string of First Spouse you do have Something in common with other First Spouse issues.

    Why oh Why?

    I can’t for the life of me see why Anyone would Chase the Boys Town Gold Uncirculated because it has a Mintage of 2995 with 25 Other Gold coins with even Lower Mintage starring me in the face that have More Gold Content and for Less Money.

    Maybe that’s Why I’m Not a Flipper trying to find the Greater Fool…

  10. KEITHSTER says

    It’s a catholic thing any got a count on the numbers on them? Fr. Flanagan on a gold coin when them church people find out there is one with a priest on it look out and all bets are off! Well Happy Holydays All”>”>”>?

  11. PAUL G says

    Although I stopped buying commenorative and FS gold, the boys town gold was an intriguing one for me. So, despite the comments by the naysayers on this blog, I went ahead and bought a proof boys town coin. It arrived today and I was surprised by its’ beauty. while I may have paid too much, gold was down last week so I paid a few dollars less. Since I am not a flipper, I could care less about a few dollars difference. In a democratic society in which church and state are ostensibly divided, it is unusual to have a coin minted with a depiction of a representative of a higher power. Like the Keithster noted above, it may be that not many Catholics know about this one. it is a rare coin with the distinction of being the only one with a Catholic priest on it.

  12. Jerry Diekmann says

    cagcrisp – Another Gimmick by the Mint to force sales… Yes, and I am voting with my pocketbook – I won’t buy ANY of the coins or medals for this issue; the coin is particularly FUGLY.

  13. Jerry Diekmann says

    Paul – I bought the 3-coin Boys Town proof set months ago – one reason being that I am Catholic and I visited Boys Town with my Nebraska cousins several years ago. I was never interested in the uncirculated gold coin, in fact I have never bought any uncirculated gold coins from the Mint, and I only buy some (maybe half) of the gold commemorative coins the Mint has issued since 1984. No, I did not ever buy a Jackie Robinson proof gold coin. Like cagcrisp said, people have had many months to buy the proof and uncirculated coins, and I doubt very much if this one will be that much sought after. Given time, all these coins will revert to somewhere slightly above the current spot of golde.

    If you want to have a picture of Father Flanagan, he used to be on the 4-cent stamp – a lot cheaper! Same design as the coin too!

  14. Anthony says

    Buy any and all coins you like with any CRYPT–0–CURRENCY you have.

    At least, in the end, you’ll have a bunch of coins you like instead playing “last man standing” with BitCoin and it’s spawn of wannabe crypt money.

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to All on MNB. – 🙂

  15. Mintman says

    Because the first haags are FUGLY
    Because the first haags are minted on non historical standard planchets
    Because the 5 dollar Gold series commems are collected by many
    So let’s see—-799 sale; 899 sale; next up 999 in OGP? Get ready it’s coming.

  16. Xena says

    USM advertising in Parade magazine (I still get a physical newspaper). Use promo code PARADE for free shipping. The ad is for the proof ASE, so it’s possible the code is only good on that.

  17. NCM Collector says

    The thirty day ordering window will make the WWI program interesting to watch. Now I think the medal sets will sell out.
    The Boys Town Uncirculated will appreciate in a few years while the uncirculated Robinson will continue to drop. When I purchased mine, I did not think it would take off immediately.

  18. Daveinswfl says

    Since futures have been offered (2 weeks) , they have run the price back to the $20,000 resistance level and then sold it off to $10,000 (as predicted) in the last week.
    Wonder how many lost their fortune in that “correction “?
    Meanwhile, steady Eddie silver remains in a trading range and if you are watchful, you can snag silver proof sets very close to melt on the Bay.
    As for U.S. Mint offerings, not much to get excited about – the premiums are way too high…still. They just continue to refuse to reprice the silver products to reflect the price declines. And the gold stuff is fugly.

  19. cagcrisp says

    Why should this not Surprise anyone?

    My Guess is that Donald J. Trump will be Upset at some time that he Wasn’t aware that he could have gotten his name on the “edge lettering”

    “Donald Trump has his own “very gold” presidential coin. ”

    “But Trump, being Trump, has revamped the presidential coin to better reflect who he is. And he has succeeded. The new coin truly sums him up well: It’s all about Trump and very little about the United States.”

    “In the past, these presidential coins were made in a subdued silver or copper and featured the Great Seal of the United States on one side, complete with 13 arrows representing the original states and the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum,” which means “Out of many, one.” The other side tastefully depicted the White House and the name of the president.”

    “Yet the 45th President decided to dump the Great Seal of the United States. What did he replace it? With his own motto, of course: “Make America Great Again” — which appears on both sides of the coin. Add to that, on this two-sided coin Trump’s name appears three times! That doesn’t even include his signature featured right below the coin’s bald eagle — which is no longer looking to its right, as it does on the US seal, but now to its left. All told, Trump’s name now appears twice on each side of the coin while “United States of America” appears only once.”

  20. cagcrisp says

    In the Above mentioned comment about Bitcoin by Daveinswfl , People need to look at a Live Bitcoin ticker from Various platforms.

    Bitcoin is traded 24×7 on Various platforms.

    IF you want to see a Live platform just google “Bitcoin ticker” and take you pick.

    The thing that i see that is fascinating is just how many transaction are for Less than $1000.00, how many transactions are for Less than $100.00 and how many transactions are for Less than $10.00…

  21. Mintman says

    I guess since BitCOIN has the word COIN embedded, it must be ok to discuss
    Totally O/T
    Nobody cares about the damn thing it’s tulip mania all over again

  22. Daveinswfl says

    Cryptos are relevant as they are becoming the alternative to precious metals, including U.S. Mint product, in the minds of the “in” crowd.. That would indicate that there should be some pretty good bargains to be had in Mint products for the discriminating buyers. Hard to find, but there are still some sellers willing to part with proof sets at or very close to melt value. As a collector who used to buy from the Denver Mint store, I am amassing a nice stash of proof sets at a fraction of what I used to pay at the Mint store. I’m lovin’ it! Just an old fashioned hard asset guy.

  23. Tinto says

    @Jerry Diekmann

    Yeah, not only is the coin FUGLY but even the date is off … I read somewhere that the US entered WWI in April of 1917 wonder if the Mint gave a reason for picking that 1918 date? And why no squawks from the numismatic press and the WWI organization? I guess the numismatic press is so small and basically have to depend on the Mint for part of their stories and the WWI organization is supposed to get the $$ when enough of those FUGLY coins sell. all MO of course

  24. earthling says

    By its very name you’d think bitcoin should be worth at least 12.5 cents. But I suppose it’s really like a Raffle Ticket- but with no stated draw date. There’s a hope for fabulous wealth but in most cases it’s going to be totally worthless after the final draw.

    Well Merry Christmas to all the Coin Lovers out there.

  25. Anthony says

    The 1918 date was not “picked” by the U.S. Mint. It was in the come. authorizing bill. It is meant to honor all U.S. soldiers and Veterans of the war. The war concluded with the armistice in Nov. 1918. Therefore you have a 1918-2018 Centennial WWI commemorative silver dollar coin, and at a VERY AFFORDABLE PRICE in my humble opinion.

    Merry Christmas to All !!! 🙂

  26. Tinto says

    Yeah Congress …. guess they didn’t get any input from any experts? But doesn’t excuse the FACT that the War started in 1917 which has been swept under the carpet. They should have started with the year 1917, not when the war ended in 1918, perhaps they should have just called this ” End of WWI Centennial commemorative” or “Armistice”. Or called it “WWI Centennial plus one” it is a really FUGLY and that 1918 start date is just the icing on the cake of this mess of a coin.

    The medals are nice and the US Mint is desperately trying to goose up sales by a potential 100,000 more by saddling them on the medal buyers. Truly SAD when they have to resort to this! Doubly sad when they put an artificial deadline of one month to order the 5 different medals. Tells me the MEDALS are probably gonna be made to order and it’s could take a while for the medal buyers to get ’em. Hope I’m wrong … but never know with the US Mint …

    IMO the coin could have even had the start and end years separately as part of the design itself and set it apart from the date the coin was minted ..

  27. Tom P. - MA says

    OK, I’ll try to tie this all together in a way no one else will understand.

    Modern US Mint products eventually all gravitate towards spot metallic value no matter what the mintage. Modern US Mint medals head there ever faster.
    Silver and gold have been in a tight trading range the past few years and palladium is in a bubble (sorry palladium people). That makes for an extremely boring coin market.

    Cryptocurrencies have had explosive growth most of us have missed out on, therefore we pretend we hate them. Myself included.
    It’s now like picking out winners and losers pre dotcom bubble. Some will make out like bandits, some will go broke.

    Beanie babies were also rare and of limited mintage.

  28. Qui Transtulit Sustinet says

    “The War started in 1917…” .

    Factual content akin to Trump tweets. Try that statement in France or Britain.

    Big news to all those that died 1914-1916.

    Like stating that WW II started in 1941. Try that one in Poland.

    So many Americans think the US is the Center of the Universe!

    Wars don’t begin until our troops die, right?

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