Near-perfect counterfeit gold shines light on ongoing crime

By Jesse Robitaille

After a spurt of counterfeit gold bars came on the market this fall, some dealers are calling for the Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers (CAND) to implement a warning system for its members.

Organized in 1975, CAND is a non-profit association of about 50 professional numismatists. This September, three of its members were duped into buying fake gold. Willard Burton, co-owner of Brampton’s B & W Coins and Tokens, said he and two other Ontario-based numismatic dealers were recently “tricked into buying counterfeit” bullion. “Here in Brampton, in the past three weeks, we’ve bought three gold pieces,” Burton said in September. “I brought them down and had them assayed by Guardian Gold, and they were all fake.”

The supposedly Swiss-made gold – one coin and two one-ounce bars sealed in what appeared to be legitimate packaging – looked “perfect,” Burton said. “Their weight was perfect, but there was only three per cent gold in them. The rest was a mixture.” The gold was purchased by B & W Coins on Sept. 25, when a woman entered the store on 345 Queen St. W., in Brampton. “We have her name, address and a phone number on the bill, whether they are legitimate. We’ll give that information to the police,” said Burton, who added fellow co-owner Doug Graham thought the dubious gold seller looked “legitimate.” “Whether she bought it from someone else, who knows,” added Burton.

THREE DEALERS STRUCK

Two other Ontario-based dealers – Ted’s Collectables in Paris, Ont., and N & K Coins in Brantford – also purchased counterfeit bars (one platinum and another gold) this fall. Ted Bailey, owner of Ted’s Collectables, said the platinum bar his business purchased was held in packaging appeared to be produced by PAMP (Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux) in Switzerland. “I figured it was one,” said Bailey, who added the bar was sold by a young-looking man. “It says ‘Suisse’ right on the package, but it’s phoney.”

Bailey said the counterfeit bar he purchased is mostly made of copper and weighs less than an ounce.

“Lots have been sold, apparently,” added Bailey, about the recent spurt of counterfeit bullion. He said the culprits have yet to be caught.

FAKE ALERTS NEEDED?

Another Canadian dealer, Sandy Campbell, said he hasn’t been involved in the ongoing police investigation regarding the counterfeit gold bars; however, he drew an interesting parallel to a recent diamond-swapping theft. “What is so interesting about this scam is during the same period we had jewel thieves crossing the country, switching diamonds with many jewellers,” said Campbell, who’s the owner of Proof Positive Coins in Baddeck, N.S.

On Oct. 20, York Regional Police arrested an Ontario couple for stealing a $10,000 diamond from W. Smith and Co. Fine Jewellers in Saint John, N.B.; however, the couple was also suspected in similar cases in other jurisdictions. “The same two suspects appear to have been involved in a similar theft in Charlottetown and we also received information a similar theft had taken place at a jewellery store in Fredericton,” Saint John Police Sgt. Chuck Breen told CBC News in October.Grigori Zaharov, 70, and Natalia Feldman, 44, were taken into custody after a Canada-wide warrant for their arrest. They were caught only a week after police began their investigation; compare that with the people selling counterfeit bullion, who were able to cross the country with relative ease.

“The bar crooks started in the east and made their way to the west coast in about a month, scamming in excess of $100,000 from the dealer community, reaching uninformed victims and giggling as they exited the storefronts,” said Campbell. “This also tells me associations such as CAND perhaps need to have a hard look at perhaps implementing a ‘Fake Alert’ to eliminate a continuance of crime against dealers.”

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