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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
August 04, 2014

MANHATTAN DA’S OFFICE RETURNS ANCIENT COINS DATING AS FAR BACK AS 515 B.C. TO GREECE

Repatriation Ceremony Follows Prosecution of Convicted Coin Dealer for Attempting to Sell Stolen Antique Coins at Convention at Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Pictured (l-r): Silver stater of Dikaia, Thrace; silver stater of Locri Opunti; silver didrachm of Euboia; silver stater of Thebes, Boeotia; and silver stater of Thebes, Boeotia

 

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the return to the Hellenic Republic of five ancient coins obtained by the District Attorney’s Office during the investigation and prosecution of a case involving the collection of stolen coins in New York. The repatriation ceremony represents the return of the coins to Greece, where they will be displayed for public view and research at the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

“As tokens of the world’s oldest democracy, these coins are priceless,” said District Attorney Vance. “New York is a place where cultural heritage is celebrated and protected, and my Office’s decision to return these ancient Greek artifacts to the Hellenic Republic is squarely in keeping with our values, as well as the belief that the trade of stolen antiquities will not be tolerated in New York City. I am confident that these coins will be of greater public benefit in an open place of study and scholarship than locked away in a safe, and I thank all those involved, particularly our partners at home and abroad, for making this event possible today.”

Ambassador of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos said: “The coins being returned to us by the New York County District Attorney are exquisite ancient artifacts that reflect Greece’s culture, history and enduring strength. Back home, where they belong, they will be displayed – with the gratitude of the Greek people to the DA – for all to admire, our citizens and visitors to Greece alike.”

On January 3, 2012, pursuant to a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Office, agents from Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) and HSI Attaché Rome arrested ARNOLD PETER WEISS, 54, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. At the time of his arrest, WEISS, a Rhode Island resident, believed himself to be in possession of two stolen dekadrachma from Agrigento, Sicily. Under Italian law, the removal of any artifacts discovered in the region after 1909 is prohibited by the country’s cultural heritage and protection laws. WEISS, however, believed the stolen coins to be worth millions of dollars, and planned to trade them at a New York auction. 

Expert analysts examined the coins with scanning electron microscopes and later determined three of the defendant’s coins to be skilled forgeries. On July 3, 2012, WEISS pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to three counts of Attempted Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree for the possession of three coins the defendant believed to be stolen dekadrachma and tetradrachm from the Sicilian cities of Agrigento and Catania. 

As part of his plea agreement and sentence, WEISS agreed to forfeit 23 coins in his possession, pay a criminal fine, perform 70 hours of community service, and author an article for the American Numismatic Society Magazine detailing the dangers of collecting unprovenanced coins. 

Five coins recovered during the investigation and the prosecution of the defendant represent authentic, internationally recognized historical artifacts from the ancient Greek cities, region, and island of Dikaia, Thebes, Locri Opunti, and Euboea, and date as far back as 515 B.C. The coins being returned to the Hellenic Republic today include:

  • A silver stater of Dikaia, Thrace (c. 515 – 480 B.C.) with the head of Herakles on the obverse side and an incuse square on the reverse side
  • A silver stater of Locri Opunti (c. 369 – 338 B.C.) with the head of Demeter on the obverse side and the head of Ajax, son of Oileus, on the reverse side
  • A silver didrachm of Euboea (c. 375 – 357 B.C.) with a cow on the obverse side and the head of the nymph Euboea on the reverse side
  • A silver stater of Thebes, Boeotia (c. 405 – 395 B.C.) with the face of Dionysus on the obverse side and a shield on the reverse side
  • A silver stater of Thebes, Boeotia (c. 395 – 338 B.C.) with a shield on the obverse side and a crater on the reverse side

Two of the other coins have been returned to a previous owner, and the remainder are expected to be given to cultural and academic institutions for display, research, and study.  

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, of Trial Bureau 50, handled the prosecution of the WEISS case.

District Attorney Vance thanked Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for their assistance with the investigation, particularly Special Agent Brent Easter.