A Minnesota federal grand jury has returned a 6-count criminal indictment charging coin dealer Barry Ron Skog with five counts related to the sale of counterfeit coins and one count of mail fraud.
According to the indictment filed April 10 in U.S. District court, the 67-year-old Skog owned and operated a business called Burnsville Coin Company, through which he devised a scheme, from June 2012 through October 2015, to advertise and sell counterfeit coins by fraudulently representing that the coins were genuine and worth hundreds of dollars.
The indictment describes how through his business Skog posted advertisements in Numismatic News, a nationally circulated hobby publication.
“When potential buyers responded to the advertisements, the defendant often mailed them, via the U.S. Postal Service, lists of additional available coins for purchase,” the indictment states. It notes that when Skog communicated with victims he would often represent himself as “Ron Peterson” and claim to be an employee of the Burnsville Coin Company, when in fact there were no owners or employees of the company other than Skog.
In addition to operating the Burnsville Coin Company, the indictment also states that Skog sold numismatic coins at a display operated in an antique store in Stillwater, Minn.
The indictment cites three victims by initials and lists five counterfeit U.S. coins sold by Skog as separate counts in violation of Section 485 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. The coins include:
- A counterfeit 1844 Seated Liberty dollar
- A counterfeit 1853 Seated Liberty dollar
- A counterfeit 1873 Seated Liberty half dollar
- A counterfeit 1885 Seated Liberty half dollar
- A counterfeit 1875 Seated Liberty silver 20-cent piece
Violation of Sec. 485 of Title 18 carries a fine or imprisonment of up to 15 years or both.
In total, Skog is believed to have fraudulently obtained more than $80,000 from his victims.
Upon conviction of any of the five counts, the indictment seeks forfeiture of property including “approximately 3,000 numismatic and current U.S. and foreign coinage and tokens, and approximate 78 bills of collectible paper money.”
The grand jury charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and the Burnsville Police Department. Two members of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force assisted with the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Based on evidence obtained in this case, authorities believe there may be additional victims who have not yet been identified. Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to call the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau at 651-539-1617. Callers may remain anonymous.
Collectors Universe won a default judgment against Skog in April 2011 in which a federal court issued an order permanently enjoining Skog from manufacturing and importing counterfeit Professional Coin Grading Service holders. The order also enjoined him from selling any coin, real or counterfeit, in counterfeit PCGS holders. Collectors Universe is the parent firm of the PCGS.
The civil lawsuit was filed on Dec. 7, 2010, in the United States District Court, Central District of California, accusing Skog and his coin business of selling during the previous four years counterfeit rare coins not marked COPY and housed in counterfeit PCGS holders made to order from Chinese manufacturers.
The lawsuit alleged violations of the Hobby Protection Act, the Lanham Act, violation of RICO, common law fraud, conspiracy and violation of California unfair competition law. It cited an example of a North Carolina collector who purchased two Seated Liberty dollars dated 1851 and 1858 from Skog in April 2010 for $12,400. The coins and the PCGS holders in which they were encapsulated were determined to be counterfeit.