A judge has ruled that ten rare gold coins worth roughly $80 million
belong to the U.S. government, not the family that possessed them,
according to ABC News.
In 2003 Joan Langbord and two other family members opened a safety
deposit box that belonged to Langbord’s father, Philadelphia coin dealer
Israel Switt, and found the valuable collection. When they asked the
Philadelphia Mint to authenticate the find, the coins were apparently
seized without compensation and taken to Fort Knox.
The 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is “one of the most sought-after
rarities in history,” according to Courthouse News. Originally valued at
$20 each, one owned by King Farouk of Egypt reportedly sold for as
much as $7.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2002.
The Langbords unsuccessfully sued the government in 2011, alleging
that the coins are rightfully theirs, and now they have the appeal.
Jacqueline Romero, assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, explained
that the coins legally belonged to the government after Franklin Delano
Roosevelt ordered citizens to exchange their gold for cash in an effort
to keep the banks afloat during the Great Depression.
“Those coins were all in a vault and were supposed to be melted,” she
Newsy contributes, including an explanation of FDR’s policy:
The family maintains that in another seizure of the valuable coin,
the government split the proceeds with the original owner after it sold
for $7.59 million in 2002, and that the coins escaped the Mint
legitimately through a “window of opportunity” between March 15 and
April 5, 1933, the Huffington Post relates.
However, U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis Jr. wrote
in his decision: “The Mint meticulously tracked the ‘33 Double Eagles,
and the records show that no such transaction occurred…What’s more, this
absence of a paper trail speaks to criminal intent. If whoever took or
exchanged the coins thought he was doing no wrong, we would expect to
see some sort of documentation reflecting the transaction, especially
considering how carefully and methodically the Mint accounted for the
‘33 Double Eagles.”
“Nobody witnessed the disappearance of the 10 coins, but the jury
could – and did – properly infer criminal intent,” Davis added.
Barry Berke, the family’s attorney, concluded for ABCNews.com: “This
is a case that raises many novel legal questions, including the limits
on the government’s power to confiscate property.”
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