By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
Bryan Schopp remembers some rather odd changes in his friend's behavior as 2008 approached. Both men had trained in the 1990s under martial-arts expert Earnest Hart Jr., whose former students include Ozzie Smith and the 1999-2000 St. Louis Rams. But from about 2000 onward, Schopp says, Weir would stay fit mainly by running four or five miles with him on Sundays in Queeny Park. And, adds Schopp, the benefits weren't just physical.
"We're both depressed people," he notes. "But we wouldn't let each other quit running up those hills. We sweated together. It was the best anti-depression medicine there was."
Still, Schopp recalls getting blown off whenever he wanted to talk about his coin investments. In the middle of one Sunday run, Weir mentioned problems he was having in his marriage to Babe. In April 2008 Weir left his wife to move in with his sister and brother-in-law, Candice and Warren Gladders.
That same month, a different marriage was breaking apart. Annie Gardner Imbs — Weir's high school sweetheart — filed for divorce. She'd been married to Joseph Imbs III, chairman of US Bank's Midwest region. In her divorce filing, Imbs listed her temporary address as the Gladders' residence, where Weir was also living. A source familiar with the investigation confirms that Don and Annie were having an affair.
Annie Imbs did not return RFT's repeated calls for comment.
Family friend Carol Lammers recalls sitting beside the family's pool with Babe last August, several months into the separation. "Babe was saying how Don had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had been fighting with depression and didn't want to be a part of the family most of the time," she says.
Weir showed up at the house, Lammers remembers, and looked different. "Before, he was good-looking and stood straight and tall," she says. "But that day, he looked beat and worn, even frumpy. He didn't ever before."
Don Weir's scheme began to unravel on September 10, 2008.
On that day, says attorney Albert Watkins, Winkelmann received a call from Babe Weir. She asked what she should do with all the gold in her basement. Winkelmann said he'd be right over, Watkins recalls. Once there, Winkelmann looked around and told Babe he needed to talk to his partner immediately.
The next day at the office, Winkelmann confronted Weir and demanded a full account of all the precious-metal coins he'd seen. Weir agreed, but said he needed to run some errands first. By the end of the evening, Weir had threatened to kill himself and was whisked away to St. Joseph Health Center.
That Saturday Winkelmann called Watkins in a panic and explained the situation. Watkins then contacted FBI special agent Kevin Cosentino, who was driving out to Babler Park to do some cycling. Cosentino ditched his workout, corralled another agent and headed for the Weirs' home.
Babe Weir led the agents inside and down to the basement. Spread out in the hallways and scattered around one room with a large safe, were thousands of coins and other valuables. They lay in stacks and plastic storage tubs, Cosentino says, but didn't look organized.
"My first thought was, 'There's no way in hell this gold is supposed to be here,'" he recalls. "When you've got a glass French door protecting it from the outside world, I thought, 'There's no way in hell this is legit.'"
Cosentino and his partner sped out to the psychiatric hospital to interview Weir. "The first words out of [Weir's] mouth were, 'Here's my attorney's name: Scott Rosenblum.'"
Cosentino dialed Babe's number and said, "Get that stuff into a safe and don't let anyone in the house."
Awaiting seizure warrants from the U.S. Attorney, the FBI and local police kept the house under 24-hour surveillance for several days. Once the warrants were issued, a team of federal agents climbed into several vehicles and rolled out to the Weir residence.
U.S. Postal Inspector Doug Boland says what he saw in the basement was "just amazing." Some of the coins had the diameter of a grapefruit, he recalls. One silver coin in Plexiglas had the diameter of a basketball. Many showed ornate engravings of animals and Chinese characters. A one-kilo gold coin depicting a wolf was worth some $80,000, authorities later discovered.
Cosentino says they gathered the coins and filled more than 30 cardboard boxes. The coins were so heavy the boxes needed to be reinforced with duct tape. Within days, federal authorities searched Weir's office at HFI Securities. Under piles of junk, they unearthed even more coins in unopened FedEx boxes, some several years old.
Later, when HFI staff received a package addressed to Weir, they notified the FBI, who returned to collect it. Over the next two months, Boland created a complete history of Weir's coin transactions.
Weir bought most of his clients' coins from PandaAmerica, located in Torrance, California. When he needed money, he would sell coins, mostly to Scotsman, and usually at a lower price than the clients had paid for them. According to Cosentino his selling-at-a-loss scenario partially accounts for the missing $10.4 million.
The cash that Weir made from the coin sales funded his personal expenses, such as his pool and the tuition payments. It also enabled him to run a Ponzi scheme of sorts, whereby he'd provide some of the cash to clients in order to convince them their investments were profitable, court records state.