MEDHURST & CO.
Fine Images and Documents
Below you will find a story from January of 2002. Some of you might
recall it but I am certain most of you have not heard this one so I
thought I'd share it. At the time I still had a shop in Alton, Illinois
even though I am located in Kansas City. Enjoy the read!
Last Tuesday I received a call from fellow Civil War dealer and
friend, Perry Frohne, who lives in Wisconsin. It seems that Perry
bought a document on Ebay for several hundred dollars, and the guy
did not send it to Perry as expected. Upon checking the guy out,
Perry noticed that he had several items for sale on Ebay that belonged
to me. Thinking that I must know this guy, Perry called and asked me
about him. I did not know the guy, and upon checking what he was
selling I noticed that it was part of my active inventory. Perry and I
talked and I told him the guy had stolen these things from the shop in
Alton (the theft had gone unnoticed my me…..Duh.)
Perry immediately tracked down a phone number through Paypal
and called. The number was for a shop in Belleville, Illinois that had
put the documents on Ebay for this guy for a fee. Perry explained to
the shop owner that he had paid for a document and had not yet
received it. The owner assured Perry that he would have the owner of
the document call him. The phone rang at Perry’s house within the
hour and the “owner” explained that he had recently experienced a
death in the family and that he would get the document right out.
Perry told him that he had some impressive items on Ebay and he
wondered if other items might be available. According to Perry, the
guy said he had tons of items and proceeded to read directly from my
labels. Perry told him that he was very interested in buying more
Civil War items from him and that he would be traveling through the
St. Louis area on Thursday and would like to look at these things. A
meeting was set up for Thursday in Belleville at the storefront where
the Ebay items were placed on the net. Perry also told him to go
ahead and overnight mail the document to Wisconsin.
Perry called me and told me the sting was on. I called the police in
both Belleville and Alton, after getting the run around and making
several calls, a police report was made in Alton.
I drove 280 miles to Alton. The officers on duty at the station were
baffled and told me to call in the morning. In the meantime, Perry
was driving down from Wisconsin to Alton and had stopped in
Springfield for the night.
Thursday morning came and I still did not know if the sting was going
to go down with just Perry and I or if the police would be involved. I
called the police officer that I had been working with and he told me
to come to the station to see a detective as the case had been turned
over to Detective Frankie. So, at 9:00 I went to see the detective,
Perry meanwhile decided that he needed to see Abe Lincoln’s home
prior to “kicking some criminal butt…I’m bringing my gat, you
know!” (Please note: Perry had no idea what he was saying at this
point.) Those of you that know my friend Perry know that he has less
than zero tolerance for those who play games…especially those
involving his money or mine, for that matter.
I drove to the station and filled in Det. Frankie. It took a bit, but he
eventually got a grip on what had happened. I showed him receipts,
scans from my computer, my inventory listing, etc. He said he would
need to coordinate with Belleville PD. My cell phone rang, and Perry
was about to go into Abe’s house and did not want to be disturbed. I
told him I was talking with the detective. Det. Frankie sent me to the
shop to inventory and determine what had been stolen. He asked to
see Perry and me when Perry arrived.
At the shop I started my inventory. Several documents were missing
and several photographs. These had been in binders which were
usually locked up but had been left out (my fault). Images were a bit
harder to determine what was gone on such short notice, but it looked
like at least 8-10 images and a similar number of documents, maybe
more. The total value was more than $2,000.
Perry arrived at the shop and we traded phone calls with Det.
Frankie. During one call Perry told the detective that he did not need
to come if he did not want to, as we were going to do the deal either
way. Det. Frankie said he was still coordinating with the Belleville
PD. Later he called again and asked us to come to the station at 2:00.
Det. Frankie woud be going to Belleville with us and we were to stop
by the Belleville PD and pick up a detective there also.
With a couple of hours to kill, we shopped the antique district and
made some nice buys, I might add. Perry called the bad guy (police
lingo I picked up from Det. Frankie). Perry confirmed the 3:00
appointment and the bad guy droned on about items and the multiple
guns he also had for sale. He repeated the story about these items
coming from his father’s estate. We arrived at the station wondering
how we would make the 45-50 minute drive to Belleville in time to get
the deal done.
Det. Frankie told us that a Belleville Sgt. would be coming along. At
2:05 Det. Frankie and the Belleville Sgt. pulled out of the station in
their unmarked Maroon Crown Victoria. We followed behind as we
weaved our way to the highway and took it up to about 80 mph.
Arriving at Belleville, we circled the block and parked illegally at the
direction of Det. Frankie. Inside we met two detectives from
Belleville who had the bad guy’s rap sheet in hand. They proceeded
to hand it to Perry (again, if you know Perry….never hand him the
ball unless you want him to run with it). The guy had been arrested
before on drug charges. I did not recognize him.
We discussed how the deal should go down The detectives wanted me
to ID the items, otherwise they would have to get a search warrant to
go into the building. They suggested I accompany Perry. Perry, rap
sheet in hand, took over. “Guys, that will not work. He is expecting a
guy from Wisconsin. Any additional people will raise suspicion. I’ll
go in, do the deal, get all the items and I'll bring them along with the
bad guy out of the building, then you guys can grab him.” I stood
there amazed as they agreed to do Perry’s plan. Perry, pushing his
luck, asked if it was all right to tackle the guy if he started to run.
The detectives asked him to let them take care of it.
At 3:10, we left the Belleville station and proceeded to the address
given. The two Belleville detectives in plain clothes led the way in
their gray unmarked car. Perry followed them in my Toyota, and I
rode with the Alton detectives. We pulled up to the address and the
Belleville detectives parked one block in front of the building, which
was located in a run-down part of town. The Alton guys parked one
block before the building. I was instructed to stay in the car until
Perry brought out the bad guy. When they have him secured they
will call me up to ID the items.
Perry walked into the store and apologized for being late. He was
directed to the rear of the building where the bad guy was sitting. He
told the guy about how neat Lincoln’s home was and then sat down to
look at the items he brought. He opened a binder and in short order
Perry knew that everything in the binder was mine. He also had a
few cheap engravings that Perry did not think belonged to me, but
decided that he would try to get it all out of the building. He asked
the guy what he would take for everything. The answer was $5500.
Perry went through the binder a second time and said, “OK….I left
my cash in the car as I did not know who I was meeting here. Let’s go
out and get it.” Perry picked up all of the items and started for the
door, but not before the bad guy told him he had shipped the
document to him that was owed, and he proceeded to give the mailing
receipt to Perry.
Sitting in the back of the car, I was surprised at how fast Perry exited
the building. Det. Frankie proclaimed, “There is the bad guy,” and
we pulled up in front of the building. The Belleville detectives got
there first and said to the guy, “You know why we’re here, Brian.”
The bad guy did not respond. I was in the back of the car fumbling
with my digital camera that I had in my coat. I thought some pics
would be fun (I did not ask for permission). Unfortunately, I was
blocked by a truck in front of the car and as I opened the rear door to
take some pictures, I was called up to look at the documents and thus
lost all hope of snagging a picture.
Stuffing my camera back in my coat, I walked up to the car. Perry
opened the binder and said, “Look at this. It’s all yours.” I was
amazed. He had a bunch of my things, many thousands of dollars
worth, maybe 50-60 items. I proceeded to ask the bad guy what the
heck was wrong with him. The bad guy rolled his eyes as Det.
Frankie told me to be quiet and not mess this up. I complied as they
cuffed bad guy. He sat in the back of the car in full view of Perry and
I high-fiving each other. They hauled the bad guy away to the station.
Perry, flush with the excitement of the bust (his sting, his plan, his
bust) pulled the postal receipt from his pocket and explained to the
detective that this was also a Federal mail fraud case. Unamused, Det.
Frankie told him he knew that and took the receipt.
Perry and I drove back to Alton basking in the glow of the adventure.
I’ll send around an update when I know more. He is in St. Clair
County, Illinois, which is known for being way too liberal in letting
crooks go. The detectives are trying to get the Feds interested. We
Well...the final update was that the bad guy did some minor jail time.
I was never reimbursed for any losses or expenses. The business that
put the items on Ebay declared bankruptcy and that was that. It was
a wild adventure!