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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2011) Headlines (08/2011) Headlines (12/2011)   Vol. 45 October 2011 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the October 2011 edition of W&ET Magazine

Thief Will Have To Answer To A Higher Authority

Prayers have been answered for the safe return of a beloved 780-year-old relic stolen earlier this week from a church near Los Angeles.

Police recovered the relic of St. Anthony of Padua recently at the Long Beach home of M. Solis. Solis was arrested on suspicion of commercial burglary, Long Beach Deputy Police Chief Robert Luna said at a news conference.

Parishioners applauded when a police officer placed the delicate gold and silver reliquary containing a tiny shard of bone on a table in front of the church.

Luna said detectives canvassed the neighborhood with a composite sketch of a person of interest who was seen at five Masses the day before the theft.

Investigators found video surveillance tape that captured her walking to St. Anthony Catholic Church on the day of the theft, and the day before, he said.

Detectives said they found the relic displayed in her living room of her home, about a mile from the church, Luna said.

St. Anthony's pastor, the Rev. Jose Magana, said the relic appeared to be undamaged.

"St. Anthony is the patron saint of travelers and lost things but today he's also the honorary saint of the Long Beach Police Department, " Magana said. "He just wanted to come home because it belongs to everyone. "

Afterward, under the watchful eyes of a police officer, Magana carried the delicate gold reliquary inside where about three dozen people prayed in English and Spanish to thank God for returning the artifact.

Luna said detectives were still in the process of interviewing and assessing Solis, and do not yet have any motive for the theft.

Magana said parishioners had seen Solis once before maybe, but she was not part of the parish community.

The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at the Long Beach church before a morning Mass on the feast day of the church's namesake.

Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost their homes, their jobs and their hope in the rough economy.

Parishioner Roxana Navichoque, 22, said she couldn't fathom why someone would steal from a church.

"I kept praying every night that God would touch her heart and she'd bring it back on her own. It came back either way and I'm really glad, " she said.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL. Civil War Letters Go Online

Trapped in a small home in July 1864, a group of Union soldiers of Michigan's 10th Regiment took constant fire from Confederate troops perched on a nearby hill.

"And here we lived the day through but our suffering and anxiety were greater during than the whole war. Not a drop of water to quench our parched tongues. Exposed to the rays of a burning sun and every man crouched on his knees or feet, and nothing to eat. "

Those are the words of Capt. Noah Harrison Hart from letters he wrote home.

The letters are preserved 150 years later at Dominican University in River Forest. Recently the letters went online at

Hart's letters are dated from 1862 to 1864, some from a military camp in Michigan, others from battlefields as he traveled into the south during Gen. William Sherman's 40-day siege of Atlanta. They were sent to his wife, Emily Julia Peck.

From The Chicago Sun-Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.

Rare Coins Spill During I-95 Crash

Part of a $1 million coin collection spilled on Interstate 95 recently in a rollover crash near New Smyrna Beach, state troopers said.

Demetri Cirillo, 47, suffered minor injuries and called several friends to come pick up the valuable coins from the treeline before an ambulance rushed him to Halifax Health Medical Center, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes said.

The 4 p.m. crash just north of State Road 44 left Cirillo's Ford SUV overturned in the center grass median after his rear tire separated, Montes said. When troopers got to the scene, Cirillo told them his vehicle held about $1 million in "rare coins and currency. "

Passenger Dawn Cirillo, 46, was not injured, troopers said. Both Cirillos were wearing seatbelts.

Both Cirillos are listed as employees of Florida Currency & Coins in Boca Raton= Demetri as the store manager, Dawn as the accountant. The store is described on its website as "Boca Raton's Oldest Coin Shop. "

As a warning to anyone who might come looking for scattered coins, Montes said it's illegal to stop along the interstate except in an emergency.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL. 'Treasure' Was Old Dynamite

A 26-year-old treasure hunter thought he hit the mother lode when he found an old briefcase in the desert recently.

"He takes it home and opens it up and finds papers in there and dynamite, " said Chris Hegstrom, a Maricopa County sheriff's spokesman. "It appears to have been from the late '70s and '80s. "

Once the case was opened, the finder noticed the explosives had begun to crystallize.

"They say when it starts to crystallize, it becomes extremely volatile, " Hegstrom said. "There was a safety issue there for that young man. "

The man called authorities, who evacuated 25 people from their homes near University Drive and Ellsworth Road.

Bomb-squad officers stabilized the explosives, which then were safely detonated in an unspecified location.

From The Arizona Republic, submitted by Vic Mathis, Tempe, AZ.


A treasure trove of gold and silver jewelry, coins and precious stones said to be worth billions of dollars has been found in a Hindu temple in southern India, officials said.

The valuables have an estimated preliminary worth of over 500 billion rupees ($11.2 billion), said Kerala Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar, catapulting the temple into the league of India's richest temples.

The thousands of necklaces, coins and precious stones have been kept in at least five underground vaults at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is renowned for its intricate sculptures.

"We are yet to open one more secret chamber which has not been opened for nearly 140 years, " Jayakumar told AFP.

The actual value of the treasure haul can be ascertained only after it is examined by the archaeological department, said Jayakumar.

The temple, dedicated to Hindu lord Vishnu, was built hundreds of years ago by the King of Travancore and donations by devotees have been kept in the temple's vaults since.

A necklace found recently was 18 feet (six metres) long. Thousands of gold coins have also been found.

Since India achieved independence from Britain in 1947, a trust managed by descendants of the Travancore royal family has controlled the temple.

But India's Supreme Court recently ordered that the temple be managed by the state to ensure the security of valuables at the shrine.

Until now, the Thirupathy temple in southern Andhra Pradesh state was believed to be India's richest temple with offerings from devotees worth 320 billion rupees.

The revelation about the huge riches in the Padmanabhaswamy temple has forced police to sharply step up the installation of security cameras and alarms.

Authorities also plan to set up a commando force for security, said Kerala director general of police Jacob Punnoose.

"Now it's known all over the world that the Padmanabhaswamy temple has jewels worth billions of rupees we have decided to assign it maximum security, " Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told AFP.

From AFP, submitted by Ben Myers, Elizabethtown, PA, & Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


There's gold in them thar sidewalk cracks!

A Queens man has discovered enough hidden treasure= bits of diamonds, rubies, platinum and gold= on the gritty sidewalks of Midtown's Diamond District to make a living.

"The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold, " a giddy Raffi Stepanian, 43, of Whitestone told The Post recently when a reporter discovered him on all fours= armed with tweezers and a butter knife= digging through cracks in the sidewalk in a driving rainstorm.

The freelance diamond setter explained that he was sifting through "very valuable " New York City mud for tiny diamond and ruby chips, bits of platinum, white-gold industrial loops for jewelry assembly, and gold earring backs and loops from broken chains, watches, broaches and necklaces= all carelessly dropped and now his to mine.

"Material falls off clothes, on the bottom of shoes, it drops off jewelry, and it falls in the dirt and sticks to the gum on the street, " he explained.

"The percentage of gold out here on the street is greater than the amount of gold you would find in a mine... It comes close to a mother lode because in the street, you're picking up gold left by the industry. "

With a reporter in tow, Stepanian took his Styrofoam cup of mud to a friend's polishing studio on 47th Street near Sixth Avenue and demonstrated how he "pans " the precious particles like an old-fashioned prospector= by hand, in a small metal basin with water and a strainer.

Over six days, he says, he collected enough gold for two sales totaling $819 on 47th Street= where he first got the idea to mine the sidewalks after finding gold scraps on the floor of a diamond exchange.

"If it's on the exchange floor, it's got to be outside as well, " he said. "This was trial and error. Once I found one [piece], I thought there has to be many more.

"The stones are already cut and manufactured= it's a step above a mine, " he added. "I'm finding them already cut and polished.

"You just have to get down on your knees and get it, " he said.

"It's the same principal as collecting cans on the street and redeeming them for nickels. It's redemption of reusable gold. This is the gold that has been on this street for 60 years. I know how to look, and I know where to look for it. "

Onlookers were amazed at the urban prospector.

"Everyone is always running around, and everyone is always losing something, " admitted one diamond dealer, 54, who would give his name only as Rueven. "Sooner or later, you're going to find a diamond. "

Another dealer named Frank, 42, chuckled as Stepanian dug in the dirt on the sidewalk outside his shop, quipping, "Half of it's probably mine. "

Added Bernie Candelariam, 21, who works nearby, "You see him sweeping the [ground] for jewelry, and it makes you want to get down there and do it yourself. "

From The NY Post, submitted by Gary S. Mangiacopra, Milford, CT.


An Ohio woman cleaning under her couch has found the 1992 California class ring lost at an airport 18 years ago by former Oregon State linebacker Tevita Moala.

Moala, who also played for Brigham Young, left the Hawthorne High School ring by a bathroom sink at the Salt Lake City airport. WEWS-TV in Cleveland reports that his family couldn't afford to buy him the ring, and his football coach had surprised him with it on his high school graduation day.

Gail Basey of Brunswick told the station she found the ring while cleaning under the living room couch. She and her husband, Thomas, think it had been in the couch since they bought it new nine years ago from North Carolina.

From The Gaston Gazette, submitted by Warren Kimsey, Gastonia, NC.


The scam, Madrid, Spain, police say, involved a fake sheik, a small man hidden inside a desk, and $14 million in jewelry including a tiara that apparently belonged to Eva Peron of Argentina.

Spanish authorities said recently they have recovered $9 million in jewels stolen in the bizarre crime in the eastern city of Valencia.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.


A tiny golden bell pulled after 2,000 years from an ancient sewer beneath the Old City of Jerusalem was shown recently by Israeli archaeologists, who hailed it as a rare find.

The orb half an inch in diameter has a small loop that appears to have been used to sew it as an ornament onto the clothes of a wealthy resident of the city two millennia ago, archaeologists said.

When Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority shook it, the fain metallic sound was something between a clink and a rattle.

The bell's owner likely "walked in the street, and somehow the golden bell fell from his garment into the drainage channel, " Shukron said.

Shukron said it was the only such bell to be found in Jerusalem from the Second Temple period, and as such was a "very rare " find. The Second Temple stood from about 515 B.C. until A.D. 70.

From the Napa Valley Register, submitted by Jerry Hallett, Napa, CA, & Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


The U.S. government rightfully seized a set of never-circulated 1933 gold coins from a Philadelphia woman who said she found the rare beauties in her late father's bank deposit box, a jury found recently.

The verdict capped a civil case that combined history, coin collecting and whether the $20 "double eagles " ever legally left the U.S. Mint.

Prosecutors argued that the cherished coins never circulated when the country went off the gold standard= and were therefore stolen, with help from the woman's father.

From the Chicago Sun Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL, & Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.

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