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Joan Langbord of Philadelphia and her sons went to the U.S. Treasury to authenticate the coins, but the government instead seized them. Authorities noted that the box was rented six years after Switt died in 1990, and that the family never paid inheritance taxes on them.
What's more, the Secret Service has long believed Switt and a corrupt cashier at the Mint were somehow involved in the double-eagle breach.
"A thief cannot convey good title to stolen property," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel M. Sweet wrote.
The 2011 trial that starts Thursday might therefore have echoes of a 1930s-era criminal case....
...The government instead insists that no double eagles lawfully left the Mint, and that the coins were legally seized. The coins are being kept at Fort Knox.
In 1937, U.S. officials seized nearly 100 pre-1933 double eagles from him as he prepared to board a train to Baltimore to meet with a coin dealer. Switt said he knew it was illegal to possess the gold coins, and said he had eventually planned to surrender them, according to a ruling issued by the trial judge this week.
In 1944, the Secret Service traced 10 separate double eagle coins that had surfaced to Switt. He acknowledged selling nine of them, but said he did not recall how he had gotten them. The statute of limitations prevented authorities from prosecuting Switt.