Coin, Gold Exchange Linked To Scientologists

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: December 13, 1989

A rare-coin business that was the subject of a seven-month undercover investigation by the Internal Revenue Service has links through several company officials to the Church of Scientology.

A spokeswoman for Bernstein, McCaffrey & Lee at 401 Cleveland St. in downtown clearwater said this fall that the owners were Scientologists.

A lawyer whose address is given as the corporate address for the business is listed as a Scientologist in a directory published by the organization.

A former employee of the business said it was common knowledge that many individuals with the company belonged to the Church of Scientology.

Bernstein, McCaffrey & Lee, a rare coins, bullion and currency exchange, was raided Monday by U.S. marshals and agents of the Internal Revenue Service.

Employees Grant Boshoff, 19, 1273 Pierce St. No. 1, Clearwater, and Lawrence Spencer, 43, were arrested at the office. Ronald W. Bernstein, one of the business's founders, was arrested in Orlando. All were charged with money-laundering.

The Church of Scientology calls itself a religion. Its detractors label it a cult. Its world spiritual headquarters are in the former Fort Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater.

Its teachings are based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, a science-fic tion writer and founder of the organization, who died in 1986.

The organization owns property in Pinellas County worth at least $21-million. A spokeswoman said Monday that there are no formal ties between Bernstein, McCaffrey & Lee and the organization.

But many individuals associated with the coin dealer appear to have ties to Scientology.

The corporate address of the business is that of a lawyer, Charles Perry, 511 Rosery Road NE, No. 7B, Largo. A Charles Perry with that address is listed in a 1988 Scientology directory of participating members. He also has a full-page ad in the directory.

Perry has moved since to Clearwater. Perry and a Times reporter tried unsuccessfully to reach each other Tuesday.

Earlier this year, a reporter asked a spokeswoman for Bernstein, McCaffrey & Lee whether the owners of business were Scientologists. She said they were. A person who answered the phone at the business Tuesday said no one was available to answer a reporter's questions.

Neither Bernstein nor Brian McCaffrey, the other person listed as a director, are listed in the Scientology directory.

Stewart Hanick, a former salesman at the business, said many of those connected with the company were Scientologists. Hanick said he took a Scientology course at company expense but never joined the organization.

Hanick was mentioned in an affidavit that led to Monday's arrests.

The IRS has been interested in coin and currency exchanges for some time.

According to an affidavit from IRS Agent Angelo Troncoso, an IRS agent posed as a financial planner and was assured that a client could invest $100,000 in gold bullion and keep any record of the transaction secret from federal authorities. Sales personnel at the exchange told the agent they could convert money from the proceeds of an illegal gambling operation into gold and rare coins without recording the transaction, a practice called money-laundering.

Troncoso's affidavit said the agent's first meetings were with Hanick, who was a salesman for the company then. Hanick left the company and was not charged in Monday's raid. He said Tuesday that he hadn't been contacted by any law enforcement authorities.

Hanick said he quit the company in September after a falling out with Bernstein. Hanick said most of the people associated with the company were Scientologists, and he recalled frequent calls coming into the business from the Scientology organization.

Clarification (12/15/89)

A Clearwater rare coin, bullion and currency exchange that was raided Monday by federal agents has employees who are Scientologists. But no evidence links the business to the Church of Scientology itself, as the first paragraph of a story Wednesday suggested. Correction (12/21/89): On Wednesday, Dec. 13, a story about an Internal Revenue Service raid of a rare coin business reported information from the Florida Secretary of State's office that was incorrectly recorded in the government's computer. Until March 1989, the business, Bernstein, McCaffrey & Lee, listed its registered office in care of lawyer Charles Perry, at his previous address in Largo. Perry now practices in Clearwater. On March 20, the corporation filed a change of address to 601 Cleveland St. in Clearwater, but this information was not entered into the Secretary of State's computer until after the story appeared.

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