Former Philadelphia Mint police officer William Gray was sentenced
to a term in federal prison Sept. 13 on charges related to the theft
of error coins from the Mint facility.
The sentencing occurred a year after Gray admitted he stole
thousands of Presidential dollars lacking the edge inscription from
the Philadelphia Mint and sold them to a California coin dealer for
approximately $2.4 million.
The former Philadelphia Mint police officer was sentenced by U.S.
District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden, N.J., to 36 months in
a federal penitentiary. Gray, aged 65, is from North Wildwood, N.J.
Judge Hillman also sentenced Gray to three years of supervised release
after serving the prison term, and ordered Gray to pay $15,208 in
restitution to the U.S. Mint, forfeit property that is traceable to
having been associated with the sale of the stolen coins, and
cooperate with the IRS concerning his tax liability for underreporting
The property to be forfeited includes $2.3 million in cash, two
houses in Philadelphia, five motor vehicles, a boat and boat motor.
Gray admitted depositing the proceeds from the sale of the stolen
coins into his Police and Fire Federal Credit Union account.
Gray pleaded guilty to one count each of theft of government
property, tax evasion, mail fraud and money laundering.
Gray worked as a Philadelphia Mint police officer from June 1996
through January 2011, after a 26-year career as a police officer for
the City of Philadelphia.
Gray admitted before Judge Hillman that the thefts began in 2007,
the year the Presidential $1 Coin Program was introduced.
Gray admitted in court that he removed coins lacking the edge
inscription from the coining area and placed them into small bags that
he then removed from the Philadelphia Mint. Gray admitted taking coins
lacking the edge lettering because he knew they would be more valuable
to collectors than normal coins.
Gray removed the coins before the edge inscription was added,
which occurs in a separate production step after the coins are struck
with a plain edge.
Theft and sale of coins
Matthew Reilly, acting public affairs officer for the U.S.
Attorney’s Office in Newark, told Coin World on Sept. 25 that
the U.S. Mint estimates that Gray stole from 10,108 to 12,208
Presidential dollars of different designs that were lacking the edge inscription.
Gray said he was initially paid $20 per coin, and eventually
received from $70 to $75 per coin.
Gray admitted to shipping the coins to the coin dealer in
California from the U.S. Postal Service facility in Rio Grande, N.J.,
and from the Federal Express facility in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Gray also admitted that between 2007 and 2009, he failed to report
the sales of the stolen coins on his income tax return. Gray admitted
understating his tax liability by $801,651.
According to Gray’s plea agreement filed Sept. 8, 2011, a public
document that Coin World obtained, Gray identified the
California coin firm to whom he sold the stolen error coins as Byers
Numismatic Corp. The firm, owned by Michael S. Byers, is currently
located in San Clemente, Calif.
Reilly said Sept. 25 that there is no evidence that Byers knew the
Presidential dollars lacking edge lettering that Gray supplied to the
firm were stolen. Reilly said the U.S. Attorney’s Office has no plans
to pursue any charges against Byers.
Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public
Affairs, issued a statement to Coin World on Sept. 23, 2011,
in response to a question concerning the legality of ownership of
error coins depending on how they enter the marketplace.
“Error coins that are lawfully issued — coins that were not
detected by humans or machines — belong to whomever has lawful
possession of them,” according to the statement published in an
Oct. 10, 2011, Coin World article.
“The United States Mint strives to achieve only the highest
quality of coins that it produces. However, we as humans — despite our
high professional standards and use of exceptional machinery and
equipment — occasionally make mistakes. While rare, coins containing
errors have legally left our facilities. As long as such coins have
been legally issued (e.g., numismatic coins sold to collectors who
purchase numismatic products, or circulating coins sold to the Federal
Reserve Banks), they may be privately owned. We do what we can to
minimize those occurrences and pride ourselves on the very low number
of error coins that do, in fact, find their way into circulation or
into our numismatic products,” according to the Mint statement.
“What we cannot control, unfortunately, is human nature and a
person’s willingness to abuse the trust and authority that is given to
them. And what we cannot legally sanction is the private ownership or
sale of the objects of such abuse — error pieces that were never
legally issued and, as such, remain property belonging to the United
States. When that abuse occurs, we will act appropriately.”
According to the article, “Based on Jurkowsky’s statement, it
would seem that the coins stolen by the Mint police officer and sold
into the marketplace remain Mint property and thus are not legal to
own. However, it remains to be seen whether those coins can be
distinguished from those Presidential dollars lacking edge
inscriptions that were legitimately released. The future of the stolen
coins may hinge on any continuing investigation into their theft and
distribution into the marketplace.”
Reilly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman in Newark, indicated
Sept. 25, 2012, that federal officials are not pursuing any additional
investigation involving the stolen coins.
Gray’s prosecution was the result of a coordinated investigation
involving the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Treasury Office of
Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Mint police. ■