U.S. must return
rare double eagle gold coins to family by Jonathan Stempel
| April 17, 2015 2:55 PM
(Reuters) - The U.S. government
must return 10 exceptionally rare gold coins worth millions
of dollars each to a Pennsylvania family from which the
purloined coins were seized a decade ago, a federal appeals
court ruled on Friday.
By a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals in Philadelphia said Joan Langbord and her sons
Roy and David are the rightful owners of the double eagle
$20 gold pieces, after the government ignored their claim
to the coins and missed a deadline to seek their forfeiture.
"The government knew that it was obligated
to bring a judicial civil forfeiture proceeding or to return
the property, but refused," Circuit Judge Marjorie
Rendell wrote. "Having failed to do so, it must return
the Double Eagles to the Langbords."
Patricia Hartman, a spokeswoman for U.S.
Attorney Zane Memeger in Philadelphia, said: "We are
weighing our options."
The Philadelphia Mint in 1933 produced 445,500
double eagles. But they were not circulated because President
Franklin Roosevelt, trying to halt a bank panic, removed
gold coins from circulation and made ownership of large
Most of the coins were melted down, but
a few were smuggled out, including one that fetched $7.6
million at a 2002 auction after having once been possessed
by Egypt's King Farouk.
The government had long suspected without
proving that the late Israel Switt, a gold dealer and father
of Joan Langbord, had smuggled some of the coins with the
help of a Mint employee.
It seized the Langbords' double eagles after
the family located the coins in a safe deposit box once
belonging to Switt, and sought to have the Mint authenticate
But when the Langbords filed a "seized
asset claim" in September 2005, the government neither
returned the coins nor sought their forfeiture within 90
days, as required under the federal Civil Asset Forfeiture
The family sued, but a federal jury in July
2011 said the government could keep the coins, and the trial
judge later agreed. Rendell, though, said the CAFRA violation
justified the coins' return.
Barry Berke, a lawyer for the Langbords
said: "The Langbords are thrilled to receive their
property back after fighting to vindicate their rights for
over a decade."
The case is Langbord et al v. U.S. Department
of the Treasury et al, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,