Collector faces charge of one count of criminal possession

Published : 01/18/12
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The collector who was detained and had two coins seized Jan. 3 in New York City has been charged with one count of criminal possession of stolen property, a second degree felony.

Dr. Arnold-Peter C. Weiss, 51, of Barrington, R.I., faces the stolen property charge in the criminal court of the city of New York.

Two coins, including one coin that was expected to establish a new price record for an ancient Greek coin, were seized during lot viewing at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan by representatives of District Attorney of New York County Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and, reportedly, officials with the Department of Homeland Security. The seizure occurred one day before the coins were to be sold at auction by Classical Numismatic Group and Nomos AG.

In the criminal complaint, released by the office of District Attorney of New York County (Manhattan), Weiss is alleged to have told an undercover informant that one coin, a circa 405 to 403/2 B.C. silver tetradrachm of Katane in Sicily, was “freshly dug” from the ground and thus, according to the complaint, “it had to be the property of the Italian government” under Italy’s Code of the Cultural and Landscape Heritage, which addresses ownership of all antiquities found in Italy after 1909.

Weiss allegedly was recorded discussing the coin from Katane, saying, “There’s no paperwork, I know this is a fresh coin, this was dug up a few years ago. … This was dug up two years ago. I know where this came from.”

According to the lot listing in the Cabinet W catalog, the Katane tetradrachm was purchased privately in 2010.

Weiss also reportedly told the informant that he bought the silver tetradrachm for $250,000 and expected to sell it for $350,000. It had an opening bid of $300,000 in the Cabinet W auction.

The highlight of the 19-coin auction of “Selections from Cabinet W” was a 409 to 406 B.C. silver decadrachm of Akragas, one of 12 known examples; it had an opening bid of $2.5 million. It, too, was seized.

Diem Tran, senior press office of Manhattan District Attorney Vance, declined to explain why the criminal complaint against Weiss does not mention the silver decadrachm from Akragas or whether more charges were pending.

“I can’t speak about anything not in the complaint, as there has not been an indictment filed yet,” Tran said.

The silver decadrachm has a reported provenance dating to the 1960s, according to the auction catalog, which appears to shield it from any of the import restrictions enacted in recent years.

Anthony Bucci, spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection’s New York City office, clarified that CBP has no involvement in the complaint against Dr. Weiss, and that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a sister agency to CBP under the Department of Homeland Security, would have jurisdiction. Phone calls to ICE officials in Washington, D.C., and the New York City field office were not returned by press time Jan. 13.

According to New York City court records, Dr. Weiss’ first court date to face the charge is scheduled for March 21.

Dr. Weiss is a world renowned hand surgeon, a professor of orthopedics at Brown University School of Medicine and Rhode Island Hospital, both in Providence, R.I.

He is also a trustee of the American Numismatic Society and a partner in Nomos AG.

A telephone call by Coin World to Dr. Weiss’ office had not yet been returned as of press time Jan. 13.

A more detailed accounting of both coins’ designs and history was published in the Jan. 23 issue of Coin World. ■

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