"Florida Man" has really outdone himself this time.
After stealing a rare coin collection from an elderly and disabled retiree, Shane Anthony Mele dumped what their owner said was at least $33,000 worth of collectible coins down a Coin Star star machine at a Florida supermarket and collected their face value, receiving about $30 - enough for a couple of 12 packs.
Shane Anthony Mele
At least that's what Michael Johnson, the victim of the theft, told the Palm Beach Post. Johnson said He had befriended Mele after being introduced by a mutual friend a few years ago. And earning his trust, Mele stole the coins - robbing Johnson of his entire retirement.
With most of his retirement savings gone, Johnson has been left to figure out how he will manage to survive.
Michael Johnson envisioned Shane Anthony Mele sending those commemorative presidential dollarsspiraling down a slot, to be converted from $33,000 worth of collectibles to just enough store credit to buy a couple of 12-packs of beer.
"He easily had $33,000 worth, and he dumped it in a Coin Star machine," Johnson said.
Authorities said Mele, 40, of Riviera Beach confessed he stole rare coins and other items, valued at $350,000, from Johnson’s North Palm Beach office in December.
Mele reportedly said he sold some, then ran many through change machines, where he got just face value.
Johnson, who said he’s disabled and mostly not working, said Mele wiped him out of his life savings.
"I was using those coins to help stay alive," he said.
"There’s no insurance that covers this kind of thing, really. Not at the losses we’re talking about," he said. "It’s put me in a world of hurt."
North Palm Beach Police swiftly arrested Mele - who still had some of the coins in his possession - and booked him on charges of grand theft with a value of more than $100,000. In a sign that drug addiction may have motivated the theft, he was also booked on a 10-count drug charge that police said was unrel;ated to the theft. In addition to the spare change he received from the Coin Star machine, Mele said he took some of the coins to a local coin & jewelry shop, where he sold them for roughly $4,000.
Mele was booked the evening of Feb. 1 at the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with grand theft of more than $100,000, along with a unrelated 10-count drug charge. He left Feb. 4 after posting bond, jail and court records show.
Mele could not be located for comment. A North Palm Beach Police report shows no address, and the telephone number shown for Mele was disconnected.
Johnson, who’s in the finance industry, said he inherited a large coin collection, as well as a love of collecting, from his father, who died about six years ago. He said he started collecting at age 16 and estimated he had more than 100,000 coins in 80 boxes, some worth just a little and some extremely valuable.
Now, he said, they’re mostly gone.
Whether Johnson might have the chance to recover the coins remains unclear.