Advertisement

Attorney Accuses Auction House of Fraud : Trial: Lawyer says Superior Stamp & Coin Co. orchestrated ‘an unparalleled scheme’ to swindle his clients.

Share via
TIMES STAFF WRITER

A coin auction house co-owned by sports magnate Bruce McNall was accused Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior court of orchestrating a fraud scheme to take advantage of the daughters of a Thousand Oaks millionaire.

Robert A. Levinson, an attorney representing the sisters suing the Superior Stamp & Coin Co., told a judge during opening statements that evidence will show his clients fell victim to an “unparalleled scheme of fraud.”

The embattled McNall, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, owns 51% of Superior. Last week he entered into bankruptcy proceedings and recently sold 72% of the Los Angeles Kings franchise to pay off a business loan.

Advertisement

Robin Trompeter Gonzalez and her sister, Janet Trompeter Polachek, sued Superior in 1992 over its handling of their father Emanuel “Ed” Trompeter’s coin collection.

Before dying of inoperable cancer, Ed Trompeter, a Westlake Village electronics manufacturer, decided to sell his collection that included some of the rarest U.S. coins, fearing his daughters could fall prey to an unscrupulous dealer.

Trompeter hired Superior to sell, in two auctions, nearly 400 coins he had gathered over 20 years. But a legal battle erupted after the first auction, which took in $3.5 million in gross proceeds.

The sisters--who are seeking $1.5 million in legal fees and damages--allege that Superior breached its contract with their father by improperly keeping $350,000 in commissions from the first auction.

The women also accuse Superior of overcharging their father $100,000 for a set of coins he purchased in 1990, and for charging them about $1 million the company claimed Ed Trompeter owed at the time of his death in 1992, Levinson said.

Levinson also accused Superior officials of stonewalling the sisters when they asked questions about the condition of the rare coin market prior to the second auction. The women subsequently hired experts who informed them the market had taken a substantial downturn, prompting them to file a court injunction to stop Superior from going forward with the second auction.

Advertisement

Superior filed a counterclaim seeking commissions it expected to earn from the second auction.

Frank Revere, an attorney for Superior, began his opening statements Wednesday by denying any wrongdoing, fraud or deceit on the part of his clients in regards to Ed Trompeter’s trust.

Revere said Trompeter had spent $18 million on his hobby of collecting rare coins and had extensive dealings over the years with Ira Goldberg, a Superior co-president named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He said Trompeter owed Superior $900,000 plus interest for a group of coins he purchased known as the Amazonian Set.

*

It was during a meeting in April, 1991, that Trompeter signed a promissory note left blank at the time because neither party was certain of how much interest had accrued on the debt, Revere alleged.

In a trial brief filed with the court, however, Levinson contended that Superior filled in the blank after Trompeter had died, and that he only owed the company about half that amount.

Also in dispute is the commission Superior received from the first auction.

According to Levinson, Superior agreed in the contract to keep only a 7.5% “seller’s commission” from the sale. But Superior, he said, improperly collected another $350,000 in commissions.

Advertisement

Janet Trompeter Gonzalez, of Mexico, has possession of the rest of the coins from her father’s collection, but remains uncertain as to what she plans to do with them, Levinson said. “She won’t sell them through Superior that’s for sure,” Levinson.

Gonzalez testified in court Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Curry--who will decide the case because both parties waived their rights to a jury trial--that her father started his electronics business at age 45 in the garage of the family’s Canoga Park home.

As the business developed the company moved to a plant in Canoga Park, then Chatsworth and Westlake Village.

Levinson said McNall, who was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, is expected to testify on behalf of the defense when they present their case probably sometime next week.

Michael Miller, an attorney representing Superior co-owner Goldberg and his brother Larry Goldberg, said his clients have entered into agreements to buy out McNall’s 51% stock interest in the coin company.

The Goldbergs alleged in a lawsuit settled this year that McNall used $4.6 million from a bank credit line because he needed the money to maintain other ventures and his extraordinary lifestyle.

Advertisement
Advertisement