Posted - 09/26/2008 : 20:23:57
Hoard of gold coins found in banker's home basement
By Robert Patrick
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Town and Country — The discovery of millions of dollars in gold and silver coins stacked in the basement of an investment banker's home has triggered an investigation by the FBI and securities regulators, according to court documents, his former company and lawyers.
A lawyer for Donald C. Weir Jr.'s former employer, HFI Securities Inc. of Clayton, said Friday that people around the country had tens of millions of dollars invested in gold and silver collectible coins with Weir but that investigators have so far been able to identify only a fraction of those assets.
"We do not believe in good faith that (the coins already located) ... will come anywhere close to the amount of gold that was supposed to have been purchased," the lawyer, Albert S. Watkins, said. Watkins said Weir had been fired.
Weir's wife discovered the coins in the basement of their home in the 1100 block of Chatsworth Place Drive in Town and Country on Sept. 10, according to a temporary restraining order sought by HFI on Monday to protect them.
Weir and his wife are estranged, and he is living in St. Charles County, court documents state. Weir's wife, Marguerite, called in HFI's president, Jim Winkelmann, who confronted Weir the next day at the office.
Weir, 55, promised to return the coins to clients and then left, telling staff he had "errands to run," court documents say. HFI then informed the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Watkins said that some of the coins were in safes but others were just stacked in the basement. Watkins said the scene evoked two movies: "The Nutty Professor" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," referring to the mounds of money. "All that's missing is Willy Wonka," he said.
Officials have since removed the coins and were said to be still counting them.
Watkins said HFI was cooperating with the FBI and securities regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a nongovernmental securities regulator. Both agencies declined to comment Friday, as did federal prosecutors.
HFI is also working with investors to determine the full amount they had placed with Weir, Watkins said. The lawyer emphasized that Weir was working with the gold and silver investors on his own.
A young man at the house where the coins were discovered declined to comment when a reporter stopped by Friday afternoon.
Weir's lawyer, Scott Rosenblum, said Friday that he did not have an estimate of what had been found in the basement.
"Mr. Weir has cooperated and will continue to cooperate with the authorities to create a full accounting of the inventory," he said. Rosenblum repeated variations on that phrase when asked if Weir had a complete list of clients and if all client money would be recovered.
Weir is a graduate of the John Burroughs School, Creighton University and Georgetown University's School of Business, HFI said.
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My aunt who was an officer in the old Cleveland Trust bank, kept a hoard of silver coins in the wall of her house.
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