Crime victims lost an estimated $800,000 when trying to buy precious coins from a Vancouver-based coin shop, according to the Vancouver Police Department.
So far, 45 people have come forward, saying that they bought gold or silver coins through Blue Moon Coins’ website, but never received the products, despite the company accepting the payment. Now, police are investigating the business, located downtown at 701 W. Main St., for theft and fraud.
“We’re still trying to get our hands around this,” said Sgt. Troy Price, who leads the Vancouver Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit. “There are victims literally around the U.S. and even in Australia.”
He said he gets a couple of reports each day from potential victims and police detectives around the U.S. Locally, there have only been a couple victims reported in Vancouver and one in Stevenson.
When the investigation began in December, there were only a couple of complaints and it appeared to be a civil matter stemming from poor business practices, police said. After more reports started coming in — all with similar stories — Price said the case began to look more like a criminal enterprise.
The prices for the coins on Blue Moon’s website were at the bottom end of the “believable” range, beating out the prices of competitors, which may be why so many people fell victim, Price said.
People bought the coins as investments, hoping they would appreciate over time. Some victims, Price said, even cleared out their retirement and savings accounts to purchase the coins. The biggest reported loss to a single person was $166,000, he said.
Because the Blue Moon case involves so many victims, it has stretched the agency’s Major Crimes Unit thin, Price said. There is no unit dedicated solely to investigating property crimes.
Early on in the investigation, Price went to Blue Moon Coins to discuss the allegations. When detectives returned for a follow-up talk, Blue Moon Coins had left.
On Wednesday afternoon, a sign on the locked door stated “Blue Moon Coins Has Moved.” According to the storefront sign, the business may also be known as Affordable Precious Metals.
Documents obtained from the Office of the Secretary of State list Aaron Scott of Vancouver as the manager of Affordable Precious Metals and the president of Blue Moon Coins. Rodney Scott is listed as the owner of Affordable Precious Metals.
Although Blue Moon Coins' website is still up, the company was not accepting online orders Wednesday. The phone number listed on the company’s website has been disconnected.
The Better Business Bureau revoked Blue Moon Coins’ accreditation in December for failing to respond to consumer complaints, and gave the business an F grade.
The Major Crimes Unit continues identifying and documenting potential victims. No one has been arrested.
The investigation, Price said, is a reminder that consumers should research a business before making a purchase online.
Potential victims or anyone with information about Blue Moon Coins is asked to call the Vancouver Police Department’s tip line at 360-487-7399 or the agency’s West Precinct at 360-487-7355.