LONGVIEW — A Vancouver man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing an antique coin collection, estimated to be worth $100,000, after he spent some of the rare coins at a movie theater and pizza restaurant, Woodland police said.
One of the coins was a quarter worth thousands of dollars that the suspect spent at face value, according to investigators.
A Woodland woman, whose mother had collected the coins, reported the collection missing in May. She said the collection, kept in boxes in her garage, included Liberty Head quarters, Morgan dollars and many other coins, some of which date to the early 1800s, police said in a report filed this week in Cowlitz County Superior Court.
Dakoda Garren, 19, had been a suspect in the theft all along, police said. The victim told police in May that she hired Garren and his live-in girlfriend, Elizabeth Massman, to do some work around her house and that the pair had been the only ones besides family members to get near the coins. Garren, however, denied the allegations at the time and told police they “didn’t have any evidence against him,” according to the report.
That may have been true — until, according to investigators, he and Massman, also 19, started spending the rare coins. A Battle Ground movie theater reported earlier this month that, on Aug. 17, a man and woman matching the description of Garren and his girlfriend paid for their tickets with old coins from the 1930s. Police recovered five quarters from the theater, each worth between $5 and $68, according to the report.
Investigators said a theater employee identified Garren from a photo lineup.
Then on Thursday, police learned that, also on Aug. 17, a couple spent more rare coins at Rocky’s Pizza in Battle Ground. One of the coins was a Liberty quarter worth between $1,100 and $18,500, police said.
Investigators learned that the rare coins had shown up at the businesses from a tipster, who lives in Clark County and had heard about a $1,000 award being offered for information leading to the thieves’ arrest and conviction, Woodland Detective David Plaza said in an interview Wednesday.
Police arrested Garren Saturday on suspicion of first-degree theft. Investigators said he admitted to stealing the coins and using some of them at the restaurant and movie theater. Most of the coins still have not been recovered, Plaza said.
Garren is being held in the Cowlitz County Jail on suspicion of first-degree theft. His bail was set at $40,000.
Plaza said investigators have asked that Massman also be charged with first-degree theft. He said Cowlitz County Jail officials have declined to book and hold her because she is 9 months pregnant.