How much is an elephant's weight in gold worth? The U.S. Marshals Service could soon find out when it auctions off nearly five tons of confiscated gold and silver jewelry Tuesday in Texas.
The bulk lot includes more than 40,000 ounces of mixed-carat gold jewelry, and over 100,000 ounces of silver baubles, valued at over $60 million.
So far, just over half a dozen bidders have registered for Tuesday's auction through Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers in Texas. Registration for the sale closes Friday, and requires a $100,000 refundable deposit.
The winning bidder will be notified on Tuesday and will then have three days to come up with the cash and pick up the loot.
"The gold market has been in our favor for quite some time," explained Jennifer Crane, assistant program manager for operations with the US Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division. "The significant, astronomical rise in the past two years has led us to this point where gold is at an all-time high and it will only help strengthen our sale on Tuesday."
Representatives for one of the bidders were on hand to view the massive haul on the first day of auction previews at a warehouse in an undisclosed location in Texas, under extremely heavy security. The Marshals are previewing the goods through Thursday, strictly by appointment for registered bidders.
The jewelry represents the spoils of a money-laundering probe dating back to 2000 involving front companies that funneled cash from drug sales in the U.S. through a pair of wholesale jewelry businesses in Panama. These did nearly $100 million in business annually, according to investigators.
The case marked the first U.S. indictment of offshore businesses for money laundering. The principals in the two companies pleaded guilty to the charges in a federal court in New York.
The Marshals Service sold off the more valuable individual pieces of diamond, emerald and precious stone jewelry seized in the case and will be auctioning off the remaining 500,000 pieces of gold and silver rings, necklaces and bars of melted-down silver in one giant lot.