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Ashland buried treasure stolen?

An Ashland woman says she buried a safe containing $262,000 in gold Krugerrands in her backyard two years ago. But when she went to dig it up earlier this year, it was gone.

On March 15, the woman reported to police that the safe was missing, but since then police have exhausted all leads and the case is dormant, said Ashland police Sgt. Jim Alderman. Police will not release the victim's name, because of the high dollar amount involved.

The case was complicated by the woman's refusal to let anyone conduct an extensive search of her property.

"She refuses to have her backyard excavated or allow anyone to search with a metal detector," said Alderman.

The woman told police she began buying gold in 2006. She said when she returned to dig up the safe, she found other containers of money and precious metals that she had buried, but not the safe.

According to investigators, there was no evidence of fresh digging on the property. They theorize that if the safe were stolen it could have happened shortly after it was buried in 2010. The woman was able to provide police with receipts for the gold, proving that it was at one time in her possession.

Tracking the coins is difficult because there are no serial numbers, said Alderman. There also are several local places where thieves could cash in precious metals without tipping off police.

Gold dealers are required to file a federal tax form only if someone turns in 25 or more Krugerrands or Canadian maple leaf coins at a time, according to Michael Cotta, owner of Rogue Valley Coin and Jewelry.

"If it's less than 25, then we don't have to do it," said Cotta.

Alderman said it's not uncommon for people to find valuables hidden on their property.

"People that buy old homes in Ashland once in a while will find silver and gold in the walls or under the house," said Cotta, "because people didn't used to trust banks, and it's sort of happening again."

At current gold prices, a Krugerrand is valued at about $1,700, according to goldprice.org.

The woman said that two years ago she hired a man to dig several big holes in her yard, which is within Ashland city limits, and then later she buried the gold and other valuables in the holes. Police have interviewed the man who dug the holes, as well as other possible suspects or witnesses, with no results.

Mandy Valencia is a Mail Tribune reporter. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or avalencia@mailtribune.com.

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