A rare coins dealer in Fountain Hills has filed a million dollar lawsuit against an old friend, alleging theft in a case that unexpectedly hit a famous local big boss.
Gerald “Jerry” Krigman filed a civil lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court in April 2021, alleging theft and fraud against his former worker and friend, Albert “Tony” Woodrel, 77, and his wife.
Their lawyers have denied any responsibility in the case and refuted all the allegations.
Krigman had suspected Woodrel of stealing it for years, according to interviews and the civil lawsuit filed in court.
He hired Fountain Hills private investigator Kelly Goar to find out what happened. She set up a secret video camera that recorded footage of Woodrel taking money in Krigman’s bedroom.
“On the basis of the information obtained during his investigation, [Krigman] believes that [Woodrel and his wife] stole at least $ 300,000 in cash and rare coins from him, ”the complaint claims.
Woodrel was arrested last year in the front yard of Krigman’s Fountain Hills home, but he has never been charged.
Krigman is claiming over $ 1 million in punitive damages in addition to the $ 300,000 he claims to have been stolen over time, plus $ 25,000 in legal fees. The lawsuit names Woodrel and his wife, Chris Nazarchuk, 68, as defendants in the lawsuit.
Friends before enemies
Years ago, Krigman filled his stash with rare coins and migrated to southwestern Massachusetts. He settled in a quiet and chic area of Fountain Hills.
An eccentric and charismatic businessman, it didn’t take long for the 84-year-old coin dealer to befriend Woodrel and Nazarchuk, other Fountain Hills residents with a strong taste for collectibles.
Krigman enjoyed 12 years of harmonious friendship with the Michigan couple.
But then, according to the lawsuit, coins and money started to disappear from Krigman’s house on a street called Crested Crown.
Woodrel has spent his career as an entrepreneur. He is a licensed gun dealer, according to state and federal government records. He also owned an investment firm and a few subcontracting businesses, all in Fountain Hills.
Nazarchuk worked for her husband until Krigman offered him a new opportunity.
She ran the online business of Krigman, the eBay site he used to sell rare pieces from his vast collection. She was even named in Krigman’s will, according to court records.
But that friendship has deteriorated.
In November 2019, things were unfolding. Revenue from Krigman’s eBay business was barely a third of what it had been year after year.
And by 2020, their friendship had collapsed.
“I trusted them,” Krigman said in an interview.
Krigman kept up to $ 50,000 in cash in his house at all times, according to him and court documents. It is a cash only business, and he has acquired new coins to sell every week.
In 2019, Krigman had $ 50,000 in his room when he left the house and $ 20,000 was missing upon his return, according to interviews and court records. His lawsuit alleges that the only people who had access to the house at the time were Krigman’s girlfriend and his employees.
But Woodrel described his former friend as negligent in court documents.
“Krigman regularly misplaced or lost coins,” Woodrel’s attorneys said in a court file. “These rooms were in the open and generally scattered around various rooms.”
In March 2020, Goar and Krigman watched security video footage of a hoarse white-haired man removing money from the bedside drawer inside the master bedroom of Krigman’s Fountain Hills home.
That man was Woodrel, whose cowboy boots clicked distinctly as he walked along the concrete garage floor, video shared with Phoenix New Times shows.
Woodrel wore a sports coat and tie as he walked through the house on his unexpected visit. Next, the video shows him rummaging through a nightstand, twice withdrawing money from the bedroom, and collecting coins in the garage. Krigman had trusted Woodrel so much that he gave him the code for his house’s garage door.
A wad of hundred dollar bills totaling $ 1,000 was missing from Krigman’s room that day in early March, according to the police report. Investigators then matched the serial numbers on the invoices to Krigman.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office arrested Woodrel at the scene the same day on suspicion of theft, but cited him and released him after complaining of high blood pressure, according to the police report. Woodrel told sheriff’s deputies the money was a gift, as court and police records show.
He and Nazarchuk ditched their Queen Creek attorney and hired famed Phoenix law firm Wilenchik & Bartness to fight the case. The couple’s attorney, Jack Wilenchik, said in an interview that he is upholding that defense.
A gift or not?
Handcuffed in the back of a police car, Woodrel told Congressman Jesus J. Cosme he had Krigman’s blessing to help himself with $ 1,000 for a trip to Tucson, according to police records.
Woodrel told MPs Krigman was “telling a shit about lies” but claimed he didn’t know how he got into the house.
“He had argued with his wife, so he hadn’t thought about it properly,” according to the police report.
Video shows that once inside Krigman’s house, Woodrel unsuccessfully attempted to enter two locked rooms.
“I asked Tony this [was] in the rooms, and he declared $ 250,000 in coins, ”Cosme wrote in his report.
Woodrel and Nazarchuk often kept some of Krigman’s pieces in their own home in order to sell them.
“Tony said if he wanted to steal coins from Jerry he would do it from his own house and not Jerry’s,” the police report quoted him as saying.
But, when MPs confronted Woodrel and asked him to empty his pockets, he tried to hide the $ 1,000, according to the report.
“He said he was stressed and upset, thinking why he was getting arrested,” the report read.
No prison, judge or jury yet
The Sheriff’s Department referred a felony charge to the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office for review. Deputy County Attorney Jeremy D. Miller has chosen not to prosecute.
“We have denied the charges due to the lack of a reasonable likelihood of a conviction at trial,” MCAO spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said, without giving further details, in line with departmental policy regarding comments on open business.
Not only did Miller refuse the lawsuits, but the statute of limitations for city attorneys to lay criminal misdemeanor charges has also expired.
Fountain Hills Town prosecutor Mark Iacovino was unclear on the details of the case, but clearly remembered his reaction when Krigman requested a trial.
“I remember having serious doubts as to whether this case could be successfully prosecuted in criminal proceedings,” Iacovino said.
The Scottsdale attorney said in his experience juries are less susceptible to theft crimes involving close friends. “It may have had an impact on” his decision, said Iacovino.
Friends in high places
Wilenchik called the trial “dirty and bogus”. He said Krigman was trying to “shame Woodrel for paying him without having to prove his claims to a judge or jury.”
In a court file, Wilenchik listed his former client, a Fountain Hills resident and “America’s toughest sheriff” Joe Arpaio as a potential witness in the case.
The inclusion of the Maricopa County Sheriff for 24 years is an oddity. Arpaio says he doesn’t know much about the case and both sides say he’s not adding much to it.
Wilenchik said: “Arpaio has basically nothing to do with the case. He has just been named by one of the parties as a character witness because they know him.”
Wilenchik represented Arpaio at his trial in federal court for his conviction for contempt of criminality and, along with his father, Dennis, defended him against a class action lawsuit for racial profiling in federal court.
Dennis previously defended Arpaio in a case in which a federal judge found prison conditions unconstitutional under Arpaio’s supervision, and helped him settle a wrongful death lawsuit for more than $ 5 million in damages and costs legal.
The lawyer’s former client was more blunt about the latest court case.
“I had no bearing on anything that happened,” Arpaio said.
He said he knew Woodrel after meeting him at a gun show. Arpaio described the gun dealer as “a character”, noting that Woodrel had tried to help him with his campaign for mayor of Fountain Hills.
It remains unclear why Arpaio was named.
Krigman’s team has nothing but theories.
“It’s strictly to intimidate us,” said Goar, the investigator. “I’m not sure what Arpaio could possibly add to this.”
Wilenchik denied this, as did Arpaio.
“I had no contact with the sheriff’s office about their investigations or anything they were developing other than a few threats against me,” Arpaio said.
The civil trial is expected to begin in September 2022.