Payne swindling charges dismissed

Published 10:44 am Thursday, August 28, 2008

Charges against the 53-year-old LeRoy man believed to have stolen $2,000 in coins from a deceased woman have been dropped, according to court records.

Gerald Alan Payne, a former bank president awaiting federal charges for allegedly swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from First State Bank of LeRoy, had been charged with possession of stolen property after family members identified dozens of coins reportedly stolen from the victim, who had appointed Payne the personal representative of her estate.

Assistant Mower County Attorney Jeremy Clinefelter said his office dismissed charges because the property was returned to the late woman’s family, which preferred not to press charges.

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“Bottom line, we achieved exactly what we wanted and what the victim’s family wanted, which is good enough for us,” Clinefelter said.

According to the criminal complaint, the attorney of the woman’s estate contacted authorities September 2007 after discovering that a large set of coins had been seized during a 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 the property, the complaint said.

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

The auctioneer allegedly recalled a conversation he had with Payne following the woman’s death, when 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.

Later, two of the late woman’s nieces 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.

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

Payne is scheduled to appear in court on the dismissed charges today. He awaits federal charges, according to Clinefelter, for allegedly taking or misusing about $283,000 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 had charged him with three counts that included theft by swindle and theft by representation. Prosecutors dropped charges after the U.S. County Attorney, which has not charged Payne to date, took the case.

Their investigations continue, Clinefelter said.