Sheriff’s coin sale grosses $76,491

Wade McIntyre

DONALDSONVILLE – The Ascension Sheriff’s Office raised $76,491.98 from a sealed bid auction of gold and silver coins seized from a convicted Prairieville drug dealer and his girlfriend.

The auction in late August drew 44 bids from eight different states, according to Deputy Donna Barbier, who oversaw the sale at the Ascension Parish Courthouse.

To drum up interest in the sale, the Sheriff’s Department advertised in Coin World magazine, major daily newspapers in the state and other publications.

“The law only requires that we advertise in the official parish journal, but that only reaches a small number of people who might be interested in the coins,” Chief Deputy Tony Bacala said. “We had to go out and make sure we had bidders representing the coin collecting world.”

Barbier said she received 44 bids and 25 people were awarded purchases. The high bidders were determined for each of 186 lots.

Among the buyers was a man from Pierre Part who made an $18,000 purchase.

The face value of the collection, which included a 100-troy ounce silver bar, came in at $55,259.72, according to sheriff’s department records.

Authorities seized the collection, including silver dollars, $5, $10 and $20 Liberty gold coins, a pair of Mexican gold coin earrings, peace dollars and many other coin types from Charles R. Allen, 50, and Mary K. Keller, 42, of 18533 Manchac Point in 2006, Bacala said.

The pair was arrested after Keller allegedly sold narcotics at their home. Allen was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison; Keller is also charged, but has not gone to trial.

The collection was seized after an investigation determined it was drug assets purchased with proceeds from drug sales, the chief deputy said.

The sheriff’s department initiated a civil suit brought to court by the District Attorney’s office and the coins were ultimately awarded to the sheriff in a civil forfeiture proceeding.

Bacala said the department will receive 60 percent of the sale proceeds, the district attorney’s office 20 percent, and the civil court 20 percent. Certain expenses such as advertising will slightly reduce the amount of money the sheriff’s department takes in.

The funds, as required by law, will be spent on narcotics drug enforcement.

“This is the first time we have ever dealt with a seized commodity that was a collector’s item,” Bacala said. “It makes the sale unique.”

Barbier said overseeing the event was a “once in a lifetime” experience for her.

Under her supervision, the collection was on display to three or four people at a time, under guard at the courthouse for four days from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

One of the buyers offered  a bid of around $18,000 without viewing the collection, and won the award.

“We mailed the collection to him,” Barbier said.