COLORADO SPRINGS – Former ANA collections manager Wyatt Yeager entered a guilty plea today 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.
Yeager, 33, was the museum’s collections manager from January through March 2007 and is charged with Theft of Major Artwork, violation of Title 18, United States, Section 668. Yeager faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release following any term of imprisonment. Among the stolen items are an Australian 1813 Holey Dollar, a 1795 Half Eagle and an 1836 Gobrecht Dollar.
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. The theft was kept confidential so as not to compromise the ongoing investigation, during which Yeager relocated to Ireland. Yeager sold numerous rare coins stolen from the museum.
“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.”
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.
A list of stolen items can be found here. A link to the U.S. Department of Justice press release can be found here.
As a result of the theft, the ANA has embarked on an upgrade to its security systems and further modified its internal security procedures. In addition, many of the ANA’s important coins are being encapsulated by NGC to allow better inventory control through modern bar coding technology, photography and other enhanced security procedures.
“I want to reassure our members – and hobbyists everywhere – that the ANA is committed to improving the security of its collection, which is a true national treasure. As new technologies are developed, we will continually assess our security needs,” Hallenbeck said. “Unfortunately, about 90 percent of museum thefts have some insider component.”
“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.”
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.