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A federal judge in St. Paul sentenced a former Burnsville coin dealer Tuesday to 2½ years in prison for fraud in the sale of bogus collectible coins.

Barry Ron Skog, 68, owned the Burnsville Coin Co., which advertised the sale of collectible "numismatic" coins. When buyers responded to his advertisements, he often misrepresented himself as an employee of the company named "Ron Peterson," though no such person existed. According to plea documents, Skog stole more than $57,000 from his customers and had planned to sell 275 more counterfeit coins for $235,000.

Skog, a lifelong resident of Minnesota, blamed his actions on his wife.

His attorney, James Becker, wrote in a pre-sentencing memorandum that Skog had worked for General Motors for about 25 years, ending in 2008 when he quit to care for his wife, who suffered a devastating stroke.

"Prior to her stroke, she was also employed full-time with U.S. Bank; her sudden illness, of course, resulted in the loss of her income. Even before this calamity occurred in 2008, however, their family was beginning to suffer the consequences of his wife's increasing appetite for gambling," Becker wrote.

Becker said Skog's daughter speculated that her mother's gambling issue was a manifestation of untreated depression. After Skog quit his job, the family survived on meager savings and Social Security benefits.

"It is clear that this situation was the source of the financial straits in which Mr. Skog committed the instant offense," Becker wrote.

The federal sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright sentenced him to 30 months, taking into consideration his age, criminal history, and the need for punishment that is not excessive.

The Star Tribune reported in 2011 that a coin buyer named Robert Webber of Goldsboro, N.C., had complained that Skog and his company were selling counterfeit coins made in China. The coins were encased in sleeves that purported to certify their value by the Professional Coin Grading Service. The owner of the grading company, Collectors Universe Inc., sued Skog for trademark infringement in federal court in California and won a default judgment of $8,230.

Webber said he filed a complaint with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and was told that when it started doing research on Skog, investigators learned that he was in China "looking for certain dimes."

Skog apparently continued selling counterfeit coins, sparking an investigation by the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and the Burnsville Police Department, which led to the federal criminal prosecution.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493