BALLINGER– William O’Connor and Thomas Eckert, two of several suspects involved in a gold coin scam that targeted a senior citizen in Runnels County, were sentenced in a hearing held last Thursday, March 7, at the 119th District Court in Ballinger.

O’Connor, 38, pleaded guilty and received a 7-year deferred adjudication and $10,000 restitution sentence, theft charges were dismissed. Eckert, 56, pleaded to a 2-year pretrial diversion and $5,000 restitution.

These men are two of the four suspects facing charges for the case involving a woman in Runnels County. The woman spent over $100,000 in rare gold coins, lost the coins and was left with credit card debt after trusting the coin dealers.

Justin Allen O’Neal, 38-years-of-age, Ryan Lambeth, 32, William O’Connor and Thomas Eckert were all arrested in September of 2011 on charges of theft of more than $100,000, a second degree felony enhanced to a first degree felony due to the victim’s age. They were potentially facing sentences from 5 to 99 years in prison.

O’Connor and Eckert were the first two receiving sentences. O’Neal is currently in the Hardin County Jail in Beaumont, Texas, facing a 5-year sentence for intoxicated assault in a separate case, his case in Runnels County is still pending. Ryan Lambeth is scheduled for a hearing to be held in Ballinger on Thursday, March 21, 2013.

The victim said she was lured to spend the money after dealing with O’Connor, a Beaumont, Texas based coin dealer whom allegedly sold her personal information to O’Neal.

According to the Runnels County Sheriff’s Office investigation the victim’s information was sold to the group by O’Connor, a coin salesman that had worked with a major coin dealer in Beaumont. O’Connor had direct telephone contact with the victim and had sold her numerous gold coins while employed in Beaumont. The group talked the elderly victim into believing they were helping with her coin collection, when in fact they stole all the coins. After the theft was discovered by the victim, she found out that all the information the group gave her was fictitious.

The woman said that O’Neal came to her house pretending to be O’Connor. She trusted O’Connor after dealing with him for over six years. However they have never met in person.

She said that the man offered to repay her credit card debt in exchange for the coins. A few days later the man came back with a copy of a check that was described as “bogus” by the woman. It was at this point that the woman realized she no longer had the coins.

A few days later, when the credit card statements arrived, she also realized that the credit card debt had not been repaid.

Runnels County Sheriff’s Department tracked this coin dealers from Beaumont, Texas to Minnesota, Illinois, Nevada, California and more.

Despite the efforts of the Sheriff’s Department, Texas Rangers and the FBI, only three coins were recovered. The victim’s loss totaled well over $100,000.

The coins were sold to a company in Bloomington, Minnesota, which had already resold most of them. These gold coins changed hands quickly from dealer to investor or to another dealer, making them almost impossible to find.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Bryan Clayton. Clayton would not comment on the case since it is still open.

The woman and her husband, who is in need of around-the-clock special care, auctioned all their assets, moved out of town to stay with a son, and put the family property up for sale.