The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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September 20, 2012

Sunbury coin dealer sets trap for Lewisburg theft suspects

LEWISBURG - They were brought to justice by a tightly knit community — and a three-legged buffalo nickel.

Two men who allegedly grabbed rare coins from a dealer’s case at the Lewisburg Farmers Market and then re-sold them to another dealer, while allegedly grabbing coins and cash from his shop, were apprehended Wednesday after the dealers alerted their colleagues to be on the lookout for the pair.

Cortney Lee Kessler, 34 of Milton, and Daniel W. Desantis Jr., 32 of Milton, were arraigned Wednesday in Lewisburg by District Judge Leo Armbruster after their noon arrest at the Jasmine-Aire Boutique in Sunbury.

The pair were surprised when Davis Siebert, one of two Lewisburg coin dealers the men allegedly stole from, appeared in the Jasmine-Aire while they attempted to sell the coins to Ken Romberger, the store’s owner, who also deals with precious metals.

Siebert called Sunbury police, who detained the two men; they later were taken into custody by Buffalo Valley Regional Police.

Police were led to Kessler and Desantis through the Valley’s community of coin dealers and enthusiasts. Buffalo Valley Regional Police alerted one dealer who spread the word to keep an eye out for the two men but especially for the stolen rare coins, including a 1937 D three-legged Buffalo Nickel valued at between $400 and $1,000.

“Dave, they caught ’em!” an elated Bill Bollinger of Bill’s Coins & Currency told his friend Dave Mensch, president of the Selinsgrove Coin Club, over Bollinger’s cases of coins Wednesday at the Lewisburg Farmers Market, where Bollinger has done business for about 12 years.

Bollinger was the pair’s first victim; the two men allegedly stole two coins from his display Sept. 12 sometime after 9 a.m.

Bollinger suspected the men took the coins — an 1896 S Barber quarter, worth about $1,000, and a 1902 Morgan silver dollar minted in Philadelphia worth about $125 — from a display case while his back was turned.

“They were very slick,” Bollinger said, adding he didn’t notice the coins were gone until a few hours later when he saw the empty spaces in his case.

Bollinger reported the theft to Buffalo Valley Regional Police. Meanwhile the duo allegedly took the coins to Siebert, an appraiser in Lewisburg, where they sold them.

Before Siebert could confront them, they allegedly grabbed the money and two more rare coins: the buffalo nickel and an 1885 five-dollar gold piece.

Siebert returned Bollinger’s coins to him last week, but Wednesday morning, he went to the Jasmine-Aire to tell Romberger, whom he’d never met, to be aware of the coins, particularly the buffalo nickel.

Romberger, who was away last week, said a store employee told him of two men who came in wanting to sell coins, particularly the nickel. She told them they’d have to return the following week to see Romberger.

The two men “had just called me this morning to say they had three-legged nickel and was I available to look at it,” Romberger said. They planned to come in before noon, and Romberger had Siebert hide in a back room to observe the men when they came in. Once he saw the men, Siebert called Sunbury police.

“Did you ever see a ghost? That’s how they looked,” Romberger said when Siebert stepped into the room. “Both were extremely shocked, surprised and looked like they were turning white.”

Siebert declined to comment on the case, citing his involvement with the police investigation.

Kessler faces two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count each of receiving stolen property and conspiracy of retail theft, all misdemeanors, according to court documents. He was released on $10,000 bail. Desantis was charged with one count of retail theft, although court documents also show him charged with possession of marijuana and of drug paraphernalia, all misdemeanors. He too is free on $10,000 bail.

Both men have preliminary hearings in October before Armbruster.

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