Feds Seek $75 Million in Precious Metals Stolen from Delaware Warehouse

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Jan 28, 2024

A storage facility in the state of Delaware is at the center of a huge investigation after over $70 million in gold and silver went missing.

The precious metals were stored by Americans who had hoped to one day use the valuables to help with retirement. Many now have lost much of their life savings.

Precious Metals Go Missing

Last year, Kelly Campbell, working on behalf of the American government, was sent to the First State Depository Co. LLC storage house to investigate missing assets.

Small collection of silver bars accompanied by a few gold coins

Source: Harold M. Lambert/Getty Images

Campbell was sent there with a small team of U.S. marshals to check the contents of the warehouse, which, on paper, held over $140 million in precious metals such as gold and silver. Yet, to the surprise of the team, over half was missing.


Customers Persuaded to Use First State Storage

According to records, over 2000 people stored their gold and silver assets in small safety deposit boxes at First State.

A section of safety deposit boxes found inside a secure warehouse

Source: Freepik

The customers stored their precious metals here in an attempt to bolster their 401(k) or IRA accounts. Due to federal tax laws, the precious metals needed to be stored in a secure place, and for the citizens of Delaware, First State seemed like a reputable place to do so.

Life Savings Gone in a Flash

Unknown to the customers, many would never reap the benefits of their savings, as the assets would vanish from the storage vault.

Gold investors hold up an individual bar of the precious metal

Source: Freepik

“Most of these investors were elderly people,” Campbell told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “They were investing their savings. It’s tragic.”

Hope Not Lost for All Retirees

While the case of the missing gold and silver dumbfounded Campbell and his team, they recovered around 1,000 of the boxes. This totaled $64 million, or just under half of the recorded amount.

An enormous cache of gold coins and bars sits atop a table

Source: Freepik

Yet, the other $76 million appears to have vanished into thin air. The boxes in which the gold and silver were supposed to be were mostly empty. Yet, some had a small amount of silver, and others contained paper notes, including poorly scribbled IOUs.

First State Under Forced to Pay Restitution

After a long string of customer complaints centered on missing gold and silver, the First State Depository was placed under investigation.

A judge wearing a black robe points his hammer toward the defendant in session

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Campbell and his team’s findings led to the court ruling that First Trust must storage pay back all customers who reported missing assets. The company was also given numerous fines.


Robert Leroy Higgins Under Investigation

First State was founded by Robert Leroy Higgins, a man who has spent over 40 years as a gold and silver tradesman.

Law enforcement discuss potential evidence during a case

Source: Freepik

Now, he may spend the next portion of his life in prison as he faces two fraud charges. As of this week, Higgins is currently awaiting trial.


Gold Hidden in the Home of Higgins

Higgins’ home was searched last summer after a federal court approved the warrant. The investigators found an unusual bag of gold coins above his bedroom ceiling.

Gold and Silver bullion was offered for sale at the Chicago Coin Company in Chicago, Illinois.

Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The gold was worth approximately $72,000 and was a long way from the missing $76 million in precious metals.


No Paper Trail for Missing Assets

According to available records, the full amount of restitution to the customers who lost their life savings still hasn’t been paid.

Woman dressed in a white shirt stares over paperwork as she sits on her desk

Source: Freepik

Campbell explains why it’s difficult to trace the missing assets. He said, “When you are talking about coins or silver bars, when they’re missing, there’s no trail.”


Customers Shocked by the Loss

Customers of First Trust, such as Victor Martel, a dentist from Florida, were shocked to find out their assets had vanished.

Dentist, wearing a long white coat is in visible shock after reciving news

Source: Freepik

Martel had bought around $160,000 worth of gold coins in 2014. In the next seven years, his investment doubled in value, yet instead of $320,000, the dentist only received around a quarter of his initial investment back. He learned his gold was simply gone.


First State Has Damaged Industry’s Reputation

Unfortunately, the scandal surrounding First State has affected the trust of similar companies in the eyes of the public, according to others working in the same industry.

Woman visibly angered with employee as she stands with her arm pointed towards the door

Source: Freepik

“We need more people to get onto people like him, because they are a thorn in our side,” said David Crenshaw, executive director of the Georgia-based National Coin and Bullion Association.


New Regulations Must Be Put in Place

Doug Davis, executive director of the Numismatic Anti Counterfeiting Association, said, “Depositories ought to be regulated by the state they are located in.”

Items associated with law and justice inlcuding a set of wooden scales and a judges hammer

Source: Freepik

Campbell believes: “There needs to be state-level regulation.”