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Palm Beach Post, Mar 27, 2010


Accused of running a $40 million boiler room scam on New York's Long Island, Joseph Romano posted bond, headed to Delray Beach and continued preying on elderly victims, federal authorities said Friday.

Romano and a co-conspirator, Russell Barnes, used a slick Web site, cold calls and high-pressure sales tactics to sell rolls of coins to unsuspecting buyers, according to court documents filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz. Now, Gatz is arguing the duo should be jailed until their cases are resolved.

In Delray Beach, Romano and Barnes kept victims on the hook by promising to line up investors eager to buy the new collections -- if only the victims would buy another set of coins, a U.S. postal inspector said in an affidavit filed Wednesday.

It was the same scheme Romano, Barnes and five other men were accused of running in New York between 2001 and 2008, according to a superseding indictment issued in December.

The alleged scammers used three companies to bilk people out of tens of millions of dollars, court documents said.

They would dip worn coins in a chemical bath and then pass them off as high-grade. They referred to some elderly victims as "whales," fat targets they could take for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the documents said.

Romano hired attorney Charles Carnesi, who famously represented John Gotti Jr. as that racketeering case wound its way through the legal system. Carnesi didn't respond to a message seeking comment Friday.

Charged with mail and wire fraud and money laundering, Romano posted $1 million bond in 2008. Barnes was freed on his own recognizance. Both promised not to work in telemarketing until the cases are resolved.

In February 2009, four months after they first were charged, Romano and Barnes used a front man to start Collectible Coins Inc. in Delray Beach and then set about ripping people off, the postal inspector said.