Former ANA collections manager Wyatt Yeager entered a guilty plea yesterday in Federal District Court in Wilmington, DE, to the theft of approximately 300 historically significant coins and other numismatic objects, valued at $984,740, from the American Numismatic Association Money Museum, ANA President Tom Hallenbeck has announced. This case is being prosecuted by David L. Hall, Assistant United States Attorney.
According to documents, Yeager, 33, from California was the museum’s collections manager for only three months from January through March 2007. He has been charged with one felony count: Theft of Major Artwork, a violation of Title 18, United States, Section 668. Along with his guilty plea, Yeager faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release following any term of imprisonment. Yeager is due to be sentenced April 24th.
ANA President Tom Hallenbeck indicated that the majority of the stolen items are world coins, although some high-profile U.S. items such as a 1795 Half Eagle and an 1836 Gobrecht Dollar were also among the coins Yeager has admitted stealing.
Hallenbeck said a full list if the items stolen is posted on the ANA website and that to date, 32 of the stolen coins had been recovered.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Yeager sold several coins in auctions, including one in Baltimore in May 2007, one in St. Louis in July 2007, and one in Melbourne, Australia, in July 2007. One of the coins sold at the Australia auction was an extremely rare 1813 “Holey” Dollar. It sold for $155,755. In addition a significant number of coins were sold at auction in Germany.
The theft was discovered by museum officials in October 2007 and was the subject of an extensive FBI investigation after museum staff confirmed the missing items. The museum staff worked with authorities during the investigation and played a critical role in helping to uncover vital evidence in the case.
In October of 2010 the ANA retained Robert Wittman, Inc., a security and recovery consulting firm that specializes in recovering stolen art and collectibles, to investigate and recover the stolen coins. Robert K. Wittman, the company’s founder and chief investigator, was the founder of the FBI’s National Art Crime Team.
The theft was kept confidential so as not to compromise the ongoing investigation, during which Yeager relocated to Ireland.
“Many of the stolen items were desirable and historically significant,” Hallenbeck said. “The ANA maintains theft insurance for its numismatic collections, but no amount of insurance can adequately replace these coins – or the loss of trust or sense of helplessness that we all feel following such a theft.”
“This is a terrible loss for the ANA, the hobby and for coin collectors everywhere,” Hallenbeck said. “Prosecution of this crime has been pursued in accordance with the law. The ANA is continuing this investigation and will diligently pursue the recovery of the stolen items.”
About the Museum
The ANA’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum, which opened in Colorado Springs in 1967, is the nation’s largest museum dedicated exclusively to numismatics. Its collection of 275,000 numismatic objects includes money from its earliest uses 2,600 years ago to individual coins worth millions of dollars and modern issues, as well as paper money, coins, tokens and medals from throughout the world.
The American Numismatic Association is a nonprofit congressionally chartered organization dedicated to educating and encouraging people to study and collect money and related items. The ANA helps its 28,000 members and the public discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of programs including its education and outreach programs, museum, library, publications, conventions and seminars. For more information about the ANA, visit www.money.org.