Message #137:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Treasure Hunter Scams
Date: Wed, 08 May 96 10:15:00 MST
Encoding: 91 TEXT


From: Erny Kuncl      

Subject: Re: Coming to a Site Near You !!

Having not named the representative, "character" but noting a similarity to 
a case I worked a few years ago, I thought you should be informed about Mr. 
Steve HOSKINS living in the Littleton, Denver, Colorado area.

In 1992-3 Hoskins approached several service clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc) 
with a story complete with slide show about a Spanish treasure buried in a 
cave in an undisclosed area.  He said he'd been in the cave, seen the 
treasure and had other substantiating facts and testimony (from now-deceased 
cowboy)

To prove its existence.  Some 39 (some older people funding other more 
physically able people) people joined in the venture he offered which was 
"for $5,000 you can go with me and carry out all the gold you can carry - 
millions!" (Quick math, $195,000).

In June 1993 they all met in Grants, NM and went into the El Malpais 
National Monument and adjoining BLM conservation study area; cutting fences, 
driving into wilderness areas, illegal camping, etc.  They searched for the 
cave's location which Hoskins had now forgotten and he suffered from an 
aggravated back injury which prohibited him from searching further.  Along 
the way they found an archaeology site and a searcher - Mr. Pappano removed 
a Puerco black-on-white double ladle.

Near dusk that day they were accidentally contacted by a NPS Ranger and a 
Customs officer as they exited the wilderness onto the highway.  Soon the 
nineteen searchers were interviewed by some six officers and Rangers and a 
.357 Magnum revolver was confiscated from Hoskins son (past criminal history 
for assault) and the Puerco b/w ladle was confiscated from Pappano.  One NPS 
citation (for the gun) was issued (fine paid, gun returned).  They also 
initially told Rangers that they were a Kiwanis group and had bumper 
stickers to prove it, etc.  All were released after a few hours.

A week later an investigation was opened out of my Denver office.  All 
participants were interviewed, a search warrant was served on Hoskins house 
with evidence seized, and other document examinations were made. This all 
resulted in Pappano pleading guilty to an ARPA charge ($550 fine, 6 mos 
probation, community service) and Grand Jury indictments were brought 
against Hoskins for mail fraud (checks mailed to him on the illegal scheme), 
and wire fraud (phone use) with other charges considered.

Hoskins (represented by Michael Root, Denver defense attorney) entered a 
plea on the charges only to withdraw the plea at the very last possible 
moment when he stated that with a felony conviction he couldn't be a gun 
dealer.  The plea date was reset for a few weeks later.  BATF reassured him 
that after a couple of years he could have a dealers license so Hoskins 
re-entered the plea only to renig at the very last moment in US District 
Court Judge Zita Weinschenks court and accusing the case agent (me) of 
threatening his life.

The pleading was suspended and an investigation started into his allegation. 
 This obviously proved false (Hoskins avoided three meetings with the AUSA 
and FBI and finally Root said that his client was "mis-spoken" and that the 
event had happened in the dark, on the NM roadside, when I wasn't even there 
 - nor was Hoskins for that matter!) and Hoskins came back to court.

By now the continuing investigation disclosed that Hoskins had laundered the 
incoming money, usually cash deposited and cash withdrawn from a bank and 
that he had failed to claim $129,500 as income on his tax return which his 
wife knowingly filled out and they both signed.  Mr. and Mrs. Hoskins (Steve 
and Patsy) were both indicted on income tax evasion and conspiracy.  Both 
plead to the tax evasion (Steve = felony, Patsy = misdemeanor) and were 
sentenced to various probation status and each ordered to pay a $50,000 
restitution to the government.

A 1993 Saturn four door vehicle purchased for cash after Steve Hoskins 
credit was turned down was held to be non-seizable because of a lack of 
complexity in his money laundering!  (Decision by the AUSA handling this 
aspect of the case).

Hoskins has prior behavior of similar nature (another fake treasure hunt, 
with the victim dying of cancer shortly after, and the estate suing Hoskins 
successfully for some $26,000).  With his order to pay the civil judgment 
back to the deceased's children, Hoskins declared bankruptcy which he had 
also done earlier after a commodities fraud (involving millions).  He has 
about a year of college education, is about 57 years old, about 6' tall, 
overweight with a pot belly, graying short hair, and very articulate.  No 
significant work history throughout his life, last word (given to the judge 
to avoid house restraint) was that he was going to sell antiques in the 
Pueblo, CO area.

If you have any information about this story or participants please contact 
me at:
(303) 969-2862, 
cellular (303) 898-9099,  
Erny Kuncl, Field Area Special Agent, USDOI, 
National Park Service, 
Intermountain Field Area, 
12795 W. Alameda Parkway, 
Denver, CO 80225-0287