COLUMBUS - Where in the world are Ohio's two most notorious missing coins? Maybe Australia, Colorado authorities investigating the case said.
The investigators said they plan to follow up on a lead that Michael Storeim, a former manager of an Ohio rare-coin subsidiary, traveled to Australia shortly after he reported the two Ohio-owned gold coins stolen in the mail in October, 2003.
"We've determined that, during the course of our investigation, he's made a trip to Australia shortly after the reported loss or theft of the coins," said Chris Nelson, lead investigator for the Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff's Office, which reopened its investigation into the Evergreen, Colo., operation amid new accusations last month. "It's just a path that has to be explored."
Over the weekend, authorities searched Mr. Storeim's home and office, taking custody of 3,500 bottles of wine worth an estimated half-million dollars, and seizing hundreds of coins, about 265 Cuban cigars, as well as computers, documents, and invoices. Some of the items, police said, might have been purchased with money from the coin venture, which was funded by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Mr. Storeim has not been charged with a crime, but police said he is a suspect in a felony theft and forgery investigation in connection with Ohio's investment. Colorado investigators are conducting a separate investigation from the Ohio probe into Tom Noe, the Toledo-area coin dealer who hired Mr. Storeim and served as the general manager of the entire coin operation based in Monclova Township.
Mr. Noe never reported any of the missing coins to Colorado authorities.
Mr. Storeim has said through his civil attorney that he is innocent of wrongdoing. A message left with his criminal attorney was not returned yesterday.
Mr. Nelson said the sheriff's office is digesting an "immense" amount of information from the weekend search and seizure.
"It's taking us in a lot of directions right now," he said. "We have to explore the leads and determine their significance."
One focus of the investigation is the two missing coins - a $10 gold coin from 1845 and a $3 gold coin from 1855 - which Mr. Storeim told investigators were stolen in an Express Mail package en route from a grading company in California in 2003.
In May, 2004, Kevin Lipton, a California coin dealer who partnered with Mr. Storeim on the transaction, told insurance investigators in a sworn deposition that there were concerns among colleagues that the Colorado coin trader had moved the coins overseas.
"I heard of some bizarre trips," Mr. Lipton said during the deposition. "I heard that Storeim decided to go to Australia for a day just so he could get more mileage on his account. And I was getting very uneasy, but I remember keeping my mouth shut."
Mr. Nelson said the Australia lead will be examined, like all other leads in the case.
"There are out-of-state leads because this is far-reaching beyond Colorado or Ohio," he said. "There's small things of interest in other states where his travels have taken him."
Yesterday, personnel from the bureau and Sotheby's, an auction house, began packing up the office to return its inventory to Ohio.
"They are writing down their inventory, all the coins, and they are making sure all the coins are there that are supposed to be there, and they are packing it for delivery," said Dan Levin, Mr. Noe's Colorado attorney. "I assume it is going to be checked in at the delivery point in Ohio and re-inventoried."
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