Former bank president facing more charges

Published 10:54 am Friday, August 15, 2008

A former LeRoy bank president under investigation by federal officials for allegedly stealing or misusing funds while working for First State Bank has been charged in Mower County District Court with possession of almost $2,000 in stolen coins.

Gerald Alan Payne, 53, was charged July 17 with a single felony count of possession of stolen property for allegedly taking dozens of coins from a deceased woman while serving as the personal representative of her estate.

Payne also may await federal charges involving the theft of almost $283,000 after related charges were dismissed by Mower County prosecutors.

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Mower County dropped three felony cases including theft by swindle and theft by representation in December after filing charges the August before. The criminal complaint alleged Payne took or misused funds between Jan. 1, 2004 and June 13, 2007 while president of First State Bank in LeRoy. He resigned June 2007 after 35 years there.

Mower County dropped its charges after the U.S. County Attorney took the case. Payne has not been charged in U.S. District Court with crimes to date.

Regarding Payne’s newest set of charges, the complaint alleges that authorities received a phone call Sept. 11, 2007 from the local attorney of her estate regarding the coins, after he learned that a large set had been seized during a September search warrant of Payne’s bank office.

The attorney thought the coins may have belonged to his client, who died in 2004, and encouraged the detective to contact an auctioneer who had more familiarity with them, the complaint states.

In interviews, the auctioneer allegedly said he had been in contact with the elderly woman 18 months before he auctioned away her things; during a tour of her home, she showed him a large assortment of coins kept in various areas of the house. He estimated he was shown a total of 500 coins, many of them silver and mint proofs, according to the complaint. A large number were kept in boxes and some in jars.

The auctioneer allegedly recalled a conversation he had with Payne following the woman’s death, during which he asked where the coins had gone as the two inventoried items for sale.

The complaint said Payne told him that she “probably sold them to somebody.”

Payne viewed the evidence with his attorney and a private investigator Oct. 17. He allegedly told the detective that the coins were his, adding that he’d been collecting them since his childhood.

Two of the late woman’s nieces later positively identified their aunt’s handwriting on the jars and boxes containing the coins, as well as a special family marking on several of the coins, the complaint said.

They also allegedly positively identified a large Ben Franklin edition silver coin collection wall plaque.

A professional appraiser valued their total worth July 2 at $1,786.49.

Payne has been summoned to court, and is scheduled to appear Aug. 28.