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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
08/04/2014

HSI New York, Manhattan District Attorney return ancient coins to Greece

HSI New York Deputy Special Agent in Charge Glenn Sorge speaks at the repatriation ceremony of five antique Ancient Greece coins with Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
HSI New York Deputy Special Agent in Charge Glenn Sorge speaks at the repatriation ceremony of five antique Ancient Greece coins with Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

NEW YORK — Five ancient coins, some dating as far back as 515 B.C., were returned to Greece during a repatriation ceremony Monday in New York. The cultural repatriation stemmed from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office

The coins were obtained during the investigation and prosecution of a case involving the collection of stolen coins in New York. The returned coins will be displayed for public view and research at the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

On Jan. 3, 2012, HSI New York and HSI Attaché Rome arrested Arnold Peter Weiss, 54, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. 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 from his larger collection 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 coins with a questionable provenance.

Five of the coins recovered during the investigation and the prosecution of the defendant are 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 returned to the Hellenic Republic 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 for their assistance with the investigation, particularly Special Agent Brent Easter.