August 23rd, 2012

Charges Announced in Online Scam

This photo, courtesy PCGS, is of a genuine war nickel.

[LOS ANGELES]  Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that Abraham Lew Berlin has been charged with nine counts of grand theft for selling counterfeit rare coins on an Internet auction site.

In September and October 2011, Berlin, 63, of Culver City, used his eBay account to list 13 sealed bags supposedly containing Silver War Nickels dated between 1942 and 1945. Berlin then began receiving payments from several customers believing they were purchasing the Silver War Nickels.

When customers did not receive their items despite numerous attempts to contact Berlin, they each filed claims with eBay. The online auction site reimbursed every customer which resulted in significant losses. Berlin made more than $80,000 in the scam.

According to the U.S. Mint, during World War II the five-cent coin was made of an alloy of copper, manganese, and silver. Nickel was kept aside for use in the war effort.

Berlin, who has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for theft, mail fraud, check fraud, and fraud schemes, pled not guilty to all nine charges of grand theft.  His next scheduled court date is November 7.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Natasha Howard of the eCrime Unit. Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cyber crimes and other crimes involving the use of technology. More information about the eCrime Unit is available here: http://oag.ca.gov/cybersafety.

Copies of the complaint and arrest warrant submitted to the court are attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov.

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