Alan V. Weinberg submitted these thoughts on coin dealer thefts.
After reading the brief account of Julian Leidman's organized crime theft of coins once he left the Connecticut show ( two years back now? ) and the reference to increasing thefts at coin shows by organized "follow-home" criminal groups, an important factor was overlooked.
The crime does not start once the dealer packs up and leaves the coin show. It literally starts while the coin show is still in progress. Does anyone really believe that the criminals target just any dealer with bags leaving a show? They could just as easily choose a dealer specializing in raw 2x 2 Jefferson nickels and Lincoln cents or inexpensive exonumia. That is simply not the case. They want bullion and / or expensive slabbed coins.
I distinctly recall Julian's retrospective recount of what he observed while still set up at the Connecticut coin show.
First, as I remember reading (perhaps on the PCGS Coin Forum), Julian wrote that he recalled a woman repeatedly checking out at a distance his display bourse cases while wandering back and forth in the show aisles but never seemingly buying any coins at other tables. Julian's coins often bear large prices plainly visible from several feet away - I distinctly recall a prooflike Unc. 1806 half dollar boldly labeled $125,000 in his bourse case.
And Julian also wrote that as he was leaving the show bourse floor, all packed up and heading to his vehicle, he spotted a woman (the same woman?) near the bourse room exit on a cell phone and overheard her saying into the cell phone "He's leaving now" . All this was in retrospect and did not mentally register with Julian as it happened. Understandable, as any dealer is tired after a show and eager to get home. [ How's this going to play out in Philadelphia when dealers will be behind their tables or at auctions from July 26 - August 11? Two weeks! ]
I've little doubt - having read over and over of similar show "follow home" thefts and with my retired LAPD background and countless show attendances over the decades - that these criminal groups are more sophisticated and carefully planned/organized , even with backup "follow home" cars and cell phones and phony ID's if they're caught, than in past decades when they would arbitrarily pick off a dealer for what was reported back then as a $200 per bag award for any theft.
These massive financial crimes of, say, $500,000 worth of numismatic items at a time , are still regarded by law enforcement in any state, as a "property crime" - even often suspected as insurance fraud - no more serious than a $1,000 theft and the criminal , if and when caught, is booked with a trivial bail like $1,500. They supply a false ID, the gang bails them out for $1,500 cash and they flee the jurisdiction well before their fingerprints are matched with interstate and FBI comparison. The same criminals under multiple false names and dates of birth are often "good for" dozens of similar expensive and financially devastating crimes across many states. The "goods" almost immediately change hands and are often fenced off within a matter of days, almost as an airport or bus terminal pickpocket "hands off" his loot.
It is almost impossible to put together a successful criminal case much less get a substantial sentence for a captured thief. Talk to early copper dealer Tom Reynolds whose "follow home" convicted Russian organized crime thieves got less than 2 years with not all the coins recovered.
That's what we're looking at. The crime starts in the coin show bourse room - and that's where security and bourse dealers should first be aware of cell phone use by unfamiliar persons - sometimes women - roaming the aisles or persons seemingly devoid of numismatic knowledge. Such persons should be challenged by show security and escorted out of the show and out of the parking lot if they cannot present a reasonable explanation for their presence. Every show should have a policy clearly stating that anyone can be denied entry or escorted off the premises. Virtually any store has such a posted policy. Why not coin shows?
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE ON THIEVES TARGETING COIN DEALERS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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