Barry Ron Skog, 68, of Burnsville, Minn., pleaded guilty February 21 to one count of selling counterfeit coins and one count of mail fraud in the United States District Court of Minnesota in St. Paul.
Skog faces a potential maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment on the count of selling counterfeit coins and a potential of 20 years maximum on the mail fraud count. He also faces fines of up to $250,000 for each count and mandatory restitution in amounts to be determined by the court.
No date has been set for sentencing.
A Minnesota federal grand jury had returned a six-count criminal indictment on April 10, 2018, charging Skog with five counts related to the sale of counterfeit coins and one count of mail fraud. With the plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss four of the counts related to selling counterfeit coins.
According to the plea agreement filed February 21, Skog owned and operated a mail-order 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 plea agreement 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 plea agreement 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.
The plea agreement states that Skog sold counterfeit coins to at least 12 separate victims and fraudulently obtained approximately $57,524.29. It notes that he “also intended to create additional loss by advertising for sale 275 additional counterfeit coins at an advertised sale value of approximately $235,000.
The Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and the Burnsville Police Department conducted the investigation that led to Skog’s arrest. Two members of the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation’s Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force assisted with the investigation. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis.
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, known as “slabs,” 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’s 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.