DENVER (CN) - A man in Montrose, Colo. offered phony meteorites for as much as $500,000 apiece, falsely claimed that most of the purchase price is tax deductible through his foundation, and threatened museum curators who told him his rocks are bogus, the Colorado attorney general says.
Colorado sued Steven Curry and his companies, The Osirius Foundation and Uncompahgre Meteorites, all of Montrose, in Denver County Court.
Attorney General John Suthers says in his complaint that he received a "packet of materials" from Blaine Reed, an experienced meteorite dealer, in November 2011, which described: "1) the sale of rocks falsely labeled as meteorites 2) eBay auctions conducted by respondents Curry and Uncompahgre Meteorites falsely advertising that purchases were partially tax deductible and 3) the composition of specimens falsely described as meteorites which respondent Curry donated to the Montrose Historical Society."
The complaint continues: "In eBay auctions held during September of 2011, respondent Curry and Uncompahgre Meteorites offered rocks described as meteorites for prices as high as $512,000. The advertisements claimed, '80 percent of the purchase price will be tax-deductible. Revenues from this sale will be re-distributed by The Osirius Foundation.' The Osirius Foundation is a registered Colorado Charitable Organization, but contributions to the organization are not tax deductible.
"[Non-party] Main Street Minerals in Grand Junction offered mineral samples described as meteorites for sale on a consignment basis for respondent Curry. Those samples were accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Mr. Reed purchased a sample described as a 'plessitic octahedrite,' a type of metallic meteorite. Chemical testing showed that the piece of metal was actually man-made carbon steel." (References to exhibits omitted.)
Based on these facts, the attorney general says, "the Grand Junction Police
Department issued respondent Curry a summons for the crimes of theft, criminal simulation, and fraud."
The attorney general adds that Curry threatened at least two museum curators who informed him that his "meteorites" are phony.
In 2010, Curry asked Matthew Benjamin, Director of Fiske Planetarium Education Programs and Curator of Exhibits at the University of Colorado, to authenticate "two sets of samples he claimed to be meteorites," according to the complaint.
"Mr. Benjamin and associates with experience in the field of meteoritics examined both sets of samples, determined that they were not meteorites and informed respondent Curry of this fact. Upon receiving this assessment, respondent Curry threatened Mr. Matthew, telling him that, if he did not retract his analysis and reveal the names of his colleagues, he would have Mr. Benjamin investigated by the FBI and the Attorney General," the complaint states.
In July 2011, the complaint continues, Curry "brought a batch of specimens described as meteorites to Dr. Bruce Geller, the Curator of the Colorado School of Mines Museum." Geller told Curry, on visual inspection, that the specimens were not meteorites, then "conducted microscopic and chemical analysis of those three specimens and determined that they were not meteorites," the complaint states. It continues: "After being told that his specimens were not meteorites, respondent Curry became angry and told Dr. Geller, via email, that he would drive Dr. Geller out of his profession and would be coming after the Colorado School of Mines."
In response to the state's subpoenas, the attorney general says, Curry and his businesses "began submitting a mélange of newspaper articles, invectives, and digital images via email to the Attorney General, materials seemingly unrelated to the Attorney General's subpoena. However, he stopped those submissions after being criminally charged in Grand Junction.
"Respondent Curry then refused to further comply with the subpoena, citing his due process rights as grounds."
Curry also demanded "that: 1) the Attorney General must enter into a written contract with respondents guaranteeing respondents' due process before providing the items requested, and 2) the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants him the right to selectively submit materials requested by the Attorney General," the complaint states.
Tut tut, the attorney general says. He has to do nothing of the sort. He says the subpoenas are necessary to unearth and terminate respondents' alleged deceptive trade, false advertising, consumer law violations, and "gifting and donation of 'meteorites.'"
Curry donated five specimens to the Montrose County Historical Society, and valued them at $58,994,500, according to the complaint.
The state seeks an injunction stopping Curry and his companies from advertising or selling "meteorites," and forcing them to comply with the subpoenas.