By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
On the afternoon of September 11, 2008, a few hours before police had him surrounded, Don C. Weir Jr. opened a Microsoft Word document and began to type. He was in his office at HFI Securities, Inc., a small brokerage firm in Clayton that he co-owned. Many knew the 55-year-old financial adviser as handsome and sharp. Friends described him as quiet, loyal and honest.
At his computer, Weir wrote the following:
This confirms all illegal activities involving I engaged in were completely mine alone. None of my fellow employees were at any part of or aware of any part of these activities. The same applies to my family; nobody had any idea what I was doing was in anyway illegal.
I am greviously sorry for my actions. There is no excuse.
Don C. Weir, Jr.
When he finished, Weir called his long-time friend Bryan Schopp. "Don asked if he could come over and borrow a pistol to do some target shooting out in Illinois," Schopp recalls.
Weir drove out to Schopp's modest duplex apartment in Maryland Heights. They were an unlikely pair: Schopp was a grizzled, semi-retired construction worker in jeans and a T-shirt. Weir, his investment adviser, arrived in business attire. But they were the same age — running buddies who'd known each other for nearly twenty years. Both were amateur gun collectors.
"I was his best friend," Schopp says. "That's what he told me."
That September afternoon, Schopp was hoping to talk about his coins. Like dozens of others, he'd taken Weir's advice and liquidated tens of thousands of dollars in securities investments he made through HFI. Schopp authorized Weir to use that money to purchase precious-metal coins. It was a hedge, Weir explained, against a dip in the market.
For months Schopp asked for a sit-down meeting to review his coin investments, but Weir only stalled.
Weir entered the apartment. Schopp had several handguns laid out on the couch. "He picked the smallest one," Schopp recounts, "a beautiful little 22-caliber German target pistol with a white pearl handle."
Schopp asked about his Chinese collectible coins, but Weir kept changing the subject. Frustrated, Schopp said, "Don, I want to sell my platinum pandas!"
Weir: "You have to wait until after the Olympics."
Schopp: "Don, the Olympics were two months ago!"
Weir: "Oh, yeah."
At this point, Schopp remembers, "Don was shaking really, really bad, and I was freakin' out. He asked me for ammo, but I was really confused. I thought, 'Do I challenge him right now?' It was a friend. And he had all my money!" Schopp refused to hand over any bullets. When Weir tried to leave the apartment, Schopp says, he couldn't figure out how to open the latch on the screen door. "I didn't have much time to think," he recalls.
Several hours later, at 7:21 p.m., a young man called the Wentzville Police Department. He said his father, Don Weir, was threatening suicide. At the time, Weir was separated from his wife and staying in St. Charles County with his sister and brother-in-law. In their basement, Weir's son told the dispatcher, his father was on medication and was holding a gun. He'd threatened suicide before, the son explained, but never went through with it.
In short order officers arrived and set up a perimeter around the house, pistols drawn and pointed at the ground. It was raining off and on. Police learned that Weir's sister and brother-in-law were inside their house, upstairs and oblivious to what was transpiring below them.
A dispatcher reached them on their landline and told them to exit. They walked out in bathrobes.
"They were completely dumbfounded," remembers Lt. Manny Borroum.
With a SWAT team and negotiators from the county sheriff's office en route, police spoke to Weir's son and daughter on their cell phones. They relayed what their father had been saying from the basement.
"Father is agitated," the police report reads. "States that he is not afraid of what is happening."
Police called Weir's cell phone and finally got through. One officer lay in the grass across the street for several minutes, his rifle aimed at the front door. "We didn't know what [Weir] had in there," Borroum says.
At 9:02 p.m., Weir flipped on the front porch light as instructed, and two minutes later he walked out with his hands up — "a little disheveled" and "confused," according to Borroum. A group of officers approached and handcuffed him. Weir told one of them that he'd "had a bad day at work."
Officer Rachel Crick sat in the ambulance with Weir on the way to St. Joseph Health Center, a psychiatric hospital in Wentzville. "His expressions were pretty much dead," she remembers. "He was in that give-up stage. Really very quiet."
Two days later, FBI agents descended into Weir's basement and discovered $3.3 million in precious-metal coins and other currency. From 1999 to 2008, Weir convinced 44 clients to invest $13.7 million in these collectibles and promised to safeguard them. Instead, he stole $10.4 million of his clients' valuables, sold them without their owners' knowledge, and created false account statements to cover his tracks.