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#1 Hum

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 00:40

A $25,000 reward is being offered in connection with 15 pieces of gold worth more than $750,000 that were stolen last summer from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Sussex County.

“It happened in between two tours of the safe that held the gold,” said Robert Hauck, a member of the museum’s board of trustees. “They had about a 10-minute window to pull it off.”

The 15 pieces of gold were taken about 1 p.m. July 27 while several hundred people were on the property. The stolen specimens had been mined at locations around the world, including Australia, Venezuela and Brazil, and were part of an exhibit.

The pieces were on display behind a half-inch of ballistic plastic, which Hauck said the thieves smashed with a 4-foot-long ax.

“It took a few blows, but they broke through,” Hauck said. “They were in and out in two or three minutes. It was a smash-and-grab job.”

Hauck said he believed at least two people were involved in the theft because somebody had to drive the getaway car. He said the thieves left behind only the pieces too large or heavy to fit in a backpack.

He said that after nearly seven months nothing has turned up, and the investigation has basically hit a dead end. Police in Ogdensburg, where the museum is located, declined to comment on the robbery, saying it was still an open case.

“They’re easily identifiable pieces, but I’m guessing they melted them down by now,” Hauck said. “I can’t say I’m hopeful at this point. I’d be astounded if anything turns up.”

He said the board of trustees has since replaced the missing gold for the exhibit. “There isn’t as much as there once was, but it’s still very impressive.”

The new display has an inch-thick ballistic plastic enclosure. .

Hauck said that he called the insurance company the day of the robbery to report the missing items, but it didn’t reimburse Sterling Mine for any items lost. “I knew we were in trouble when I said, ‘We’re covered, right?’ and they just said, ‘We’ll get back to you.’ They found a loophole,” he said.

A nonprofit organization, Sterling Mine is a regular destination for school field trips around North Jersey, educating students about the history of mining. The mine first opened in the 1700s and closed in 1986. It became a museum three years later.

The reward is for information leading to successful recovery of the specimens and capture of the thief. Anyone with information to offer is asked to call either Richard or Robert Hauck at 973-209-7212 or send an email to Earl Verbeek at everbeek@ptd.net.

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