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Web of lies: Antiques dealer snared many in his con

File Photo
Joseph Cain

There wasn’t a museum in Alabama. There never was a $63,000 gold deal.

And there certainly wasn’t a kidnapping somewhere down in southern Indiana.

Those were among the yarns spun by 42-year-old Joseph Cain, a convicted con on his way to the Indiana Department of Correction to serve a six-year sentence for corrupt business influence.

Those little tales he told built on each other, snaring those who wandered into his antiques store looking for a deal. Now they are out thousands of dollars, as is a local jewelry store that sold him a diamond ring in exchange for a $21,400 personal check that bounced like a rubber ball.

According to court documents, the investigation seems to have started with the bank – an investigation into an account overdrawn by $23,232 in just a few days. The account was opened by Cain in the name of “The Golden Oldies,” an antiques shop and consignment store he’d opened in the Georgetown area.

On Aug. 26, he opened the account with three checks totaling $43,391, drawn on another account in his name at Three Rivers Federal Credit Union. All three checks bounced.

A month before that, Cain bought $18,457 in gold and silver from a local coin shop owned by Peter Thong. And the checks bounced. After all was said and done, Thong is still owed $23,457.

Court documents in the criminal cases against Cain spell out at least $400,000 in losses to his victims.

There are a number of civil cases pending against Cain as well, with damages yet to be determined. And prosecutors said during his sentencing hearing Monday that they figure there are more victims out there, waiting to come forward with more tales of deception.

In case they do, Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck took the unusual step Friday of attaching Cain’s disclosure of where he has stashed all the money he took, any assets he might have acquired, and anyplace he may have hidden anything as a requirement of his probation.

If he fails to cough up information to help make his victims whole, Cain will have to serve the additional six years of his sentence that have so far been suspended.

Museum story

For most of his life, 72-year-old Bob Willey collected and sold Civil War artifacts – buttons and belt buckles, firearms and swords.

Last fall, Willey heard about Cain’s antiques mall and decided to get one of his booths.

One day, while Willey was setting up his booth, Cain took one of his Confederate rifles out of the display case, took a photograph of it and said he was going to put the picture up on the Internet to help sell it.

“He told me he did that, and that was fine with me,” Willey said. “It seemed like he was working to make things sell for me.”

After that, Cain told him some guy down in Mobile, Alabama, wanted a bunch of Willey’s Confederate memorabilia, especially the rifle and a sword, to use in a museum he was opening.

Cain said he would drive the items down to Mobile himself, and while he was there, he would put together a gold deal, if only Willey would give him $63,000.

Willey did, along with some more guns and swords. Cain called him two days later, supposedly from the road. The gold is at the refiner, Cain claimed, and a cashier’s check would be headed to Fort Wayne in just a few days, as well as the money for the artifacts.

“Joe never went to Alabama. There is no museum,” Willey said. “Never was.”

Willey went to Florida on a previously scheduled trip, sending his wife over to the store to pick up a $139,700 personal check from Cain, which he would then hold for a few days. The check would be redeemed by Cain later in the week, he’d been promised.

“He tells me the money is in the bank, but it’s being held by the IRS,” Willey said.

Each visit to the store, there were more reasons why the money wasn’t available, Willey said.

Then, on one last visit, Willey arrived at the store to be told by Cain’s mother that his son had been kidnapped from his elementary school in southern Indiana and Cain wasn’t there.

Willey had enough.

“This time I was doubting his story,” he said.

Willey called the sheriff of the county in question. Nope, there was no kidnapping.

Around the first of December, Willey went to local detectives, and started meeting with other people in similar situations.

One woman, he said, lost $80,000 to Cain. A man lost $52,000.

“It is a mystery as to where the money went,” he said. “I’m sure the IRS would be happy to know.”

Where’s the money?

Along with Willey, others spoke in Allen Superior Court on Monday at Cain’s sentencing.

Angry and obviously hurting, they spoke of delayed medical treatments, postponed because they were strapped for cash. They talked about putting off weddings and missing out on vacations in the aftermath of their dealings with Cain.

Cain told the court he wanted to make it right for his victims. But he’d told the probation officers investigating his financial status he made $500,000 last year and had $150,000 in assets.

The Golden Oldies is now closed, replaced by JJ’s Antiques, which is reportedly owned by his parents, who declined to comment for this story.

On Friday, Cain was back in court to hear the special conditions of his probation.

If he violates them, the six-year suspended prison sentence will be revoked and his time behind bars will double.

All he has to do, according to court documents, is, by July 28, provide a “verified accounting” of all assets – held in his name, held “jointly,” held “in common,” held in any partnerships, and any financial institution.

And he has to reveal where the $500,000 in income he said he gathered for himself last year came from, and where it’s spent.

He can’t give anything else away. He can’t sell it. He can’t dispose of it. Nothing, without the court’s permission.

One of his victims noticed Monday that he seemed rather calm, given the situation.

“It’d be worth getting caught, if you have that stashed away, knowing you have it waiting,” said Jeff Sedlmeyer, who lost nearly $60,000 to Cain.

rgreen@jg.net

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