Coin dealers claim IRS singled them out
by Curtis Krueger
March 6, 1990
St. Petersburg Times
Three men accused of money laundering in a Clearwater rare-coin dealership
claim they were unfairly singled out for prosecution because they are
They claim the internal Revenue had no evidence of criminal activity when
it began an investigation of the coin dealership, Bernstein, McCaffrey &
Lee. Instead, the three accused men charge that they were "targeted for
investigation and prosecution solely because they are Scientologists," and
say the case against them should be dismissed.
They claim another example of this allegedly selective prosecution is the
ongoing IRS inquiry into the tax-exempt status of the Clearwater-based
Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization.
Scientologists follow the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the late
science-fiction writer who founded the Church of Scientology. The
organization has its worldwide spiritual headquarters in Clearwater.
The IRS says it began the investigation because the coin dealership
advertised that coins could be "bought and sold with cash, without a paper
But the defendants' motion says there is nothing necessarily illegal about
buying and selling coins with cash, without a paper trail, and says the ad
was not the real reason behind the investigation.
The three men were arrested in December because an agent said they had
arranged to sell a man $100,000 in gold bullion and to keep any record of
the transaction secret, because the cash was the untaxed proceeds of an
illegal gambling operation. The staff allegedly agreed to sidestep
federal regulations requiring financial disclosure forms for cash
transactions of more thatn $10,000.
The man posing as the buyer actually was an undercover IRS agent. Grant
Boshoff, 19, Lawrence Specner, 43, and the company's owner, Ronald W.
Bernstein, were arrested and charged.
Now those three say, in a motion filed in federal court last week, that
they are being victimized because the IRS has targeted Scientologists for
selective enforcement for the past 30 years.
Spencer, one of the accused, says in an affidavit that, shortly after his
arrest, an IRS agent peppered him with questions about possible
connections between the business and the Church of Scientology. The agent
asked whether the Church of Scientology owned the coin dealership or the
building, whether Spencer was a Scientologist, whether he had been a
Scientologist before he started working for the coin dealership, and why
so many Scientologists worked for the business. Spencer's answers were
not included in the motion.
The motion also points out that an IRS agent testified in the tax case
that the agency is investigating whether businesses owned by former
Scientology officials are funneling money to Scientology churches.
The coin dealership has offices on a portion of western Cleveland Street
in downtown Clearwater where many businesses run by Scientologists are
located. Most of the business owners say the Church of Scientology has no
formal connection to their businesses.
A spokesman for the IRS declined to comment on the defendants' motion. A
spokesman for the Church of Scientology could not be reached Monday
I see this was written in 1990.
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