Las Vegas (ABC) -- A man whose $50,000 coin collection was first stolen, then hocked, cannot recover it from Las Vegas' famous "Pawn Stars" pawn shop. Reason: The hock shop claims it melted the coins down.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the State of Nevada in Clark County Justice Court, a coin collection valued by its owner, David Walters, at up to $50,000, was stolen from Walters' Las Vegas home in November 2013 by Walters' niece, Jennifer Beckman.
Court documents say Walters' collection--kept in a bag hidden under a dresser--contained such rarities as a 1903 St. Gaudens $20 gold piece and Silver Morgan coins from the 1880s. It also contained contemporary 1 oz. American Buffalo gold pieces.
The complaint alleges Beckman stole the collection in installments, taking parts of it on three different occasions to Las Vegas' Gold and Silver Pawn shop, where, it says, she sold them. The shop is the setting for the hit History Channel TV series "Pawn Stars."
Detective Watkins of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says in a deposition filed with the complaint that Beckman, from her three visits to the shop on Vas Vegas Boulevard, netted a total of $12,375.
Watkins says he contacted Gold and Silver and attempted to place a hold on the coins, so they could be returned to Walters. But, he says, he was unable to recover them.
The reason, according to both Watkins and to a spokesman for Gold and Silver, is that too much time had passed: The owner did not discover the thefts until November 27, and the shop was not notified by police that the coins were stolen until December 5. By that time, they were already gone.
Pawn shops are highly regulated under Nevada law. Customers must present identification, and every item hocked must be entered into a database that police regularly review. Shops must hold hocked items for 30 to 90 days before disposing of them, giving owners time to redeem them, and police time to identify stolen goods.
The law makes only a few exceptions to this holding period requirement. One is for coins: If the hocked items are "coins which are not part of jewelry," the shop can dispose of them any time it wants.
Calls to Walters and Beckman seeking comment weren't immediately returned.
So, what happened to Walter's coins? Where did they go?
Explains Silver and Gold's spokesperson, Laura Herlovich, "In a fast-moving shop, particularly our shop, because of its fame, you move things quickly." When coins come in, she says, they typically are in plastic cases, with a value already assigned them by a grader.
"We go through them," says Herlovich. "If the grader is not someone we trust, the cases are cracked open and the coins are sent out to be melted down. That was the case here. I don't know for sure, but I believe a majority were melted down. They weren't worth what he [Walters] thought they were worth."
The History Channel is owned by A+E Networks, a joint venture of Hearst Corp. and the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Co.