The Coastal Star

Ocean Ridge/Delray Beach: Feds seize homes owned by man charged with fraud

By Angie Francalancia

Federal authorities have seized the Ocean Ridge home and another home owned by Joseph Romano, who has been accused of resurrecting a $40 million boiler room scam he
originated on Long Island with his Delray Beach-based Collectible Coins Inc.
while free on bail.

Romano and a co-conspirator, Russell Barnes, were taken by U.S. Marshals to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn in March to await trial, scheduled
for Sept. 27, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District
of New York.

By the time authorities tracked Romano and Barnes to South Florida, they already had scammed at least 10 victims out of about $600,000 from the Delray Beach
operation, according to court documents filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara
Treinis Gatz. The pair used cold calls and high-pressure sales to sell rolls of
coins to buyers, including many elderly victims, according to the court

An answering service for Collectible Coins Inc. at 1300 NW 17th Ave. in Delray Beach said the office was closed “because the guys are at a training conference
until April 23 at the latest.”

Despite Romano and Barnes’ incarceration, Collectible Coins was still in operation in March, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendants would dip used or worn coins in a chemical bath, and then pass them off as high-grade collectibles, the documents said. In fact, the coins were
worth much less than the callers claimed.

Romano bought his two-story oceanfront home at 6011 N. Ocean Blvd. in 2004 for $2.9 million. The 7,029 square-foot home had a $50,632 tax bill in 2009. Romano had
run into trouble with Ocean Ridge’s code enforcement board in August 2009, when
he was cited for failing to have a fence around his pool. A month later he was
assessed $260 in fines and a special magistrate agreed to allow the town to
start assessing $100-a-day fines, noting that other code violations existed as

He also had bought a five-bedroom two-bath home in 2004 at 7084 Via Leonardo in Isola Bella, off Hypoluxo Road, west of Florida’s Turnpike. Federal officials
seized that $431,000 property as well.

Charged with conspiracy to commit mail/wire fraud and money laundering, the defendants had three New York companies using the same coin sale methods since 2001.
Romano was released on $1 million bail while Barnes was released on his own
recognizance. Four months after they first were charged, Romano and Barnes used
another man to start Collectible Coins Inc. in Delray Beach, according to the
postal inspector. Salesmen cajoled, pressured or confused elderly people into
buying rolls of Benjamin Franklin half-dollar coins under the guise that
investors would be willing to buy them, the inspector said.

South Florida victims identified only as John Does were seniors as old as 91. In addition to the 10 identified from the Delray Beach operation, federal
prosecutors have identified 100 victims. Romano and Barnes could face
additional charges connected with the Delray Beach operation.

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